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Be Kind Rewind (2008)

New Line Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 6/17/2008

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/22/2008

When I mentioned to a friend that I was preparing a review for the DVD of Be Kind Rewind, she told me that she had seen the film in the theater and that the row in front of her had been filled with teenaged boys who were apparently there to see the latest Jack Black movie and were clearly bored by what they had found. I couldn't have said it better. This movie looks like it should be a kick and a chance for Black to cut loose, but instead, we get a weird tale of hope and movies.

Be Kind Rewind is set in Passaic, Mosaic, and centers on a video store which carries the same name as the film. The store is owned by Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) (who is obsessed with the new video store down the street), but he lets Mike (Mos Def) do most of the day-to-day work in the store, which rents only VHS tapes. Mr. Fletcher has been told that he must make significant improvements to the building, or it will be demolished to make way for a new, modern building. Despite the fact that Mr. Fletcher claims that jazz legend Fats Waller was born in the building, the decision has been made. When Mr. Fletcher leaves on a business trip, Mike is put in charge of the store. Despite the fact that Mike has this responsibility, his friend Jerry (Jack Black), asks Mike to help him sabotage the nearby power plant, as Jerry hates living beside it. The failed attempt leaves Jerry magnetized and he erases all of the tapes in the store. When Mike and Jerry realize that the tapes are erased, but that the customers still want movies, they decide to remake the films themselves, using a camcorder, locals as actors, and household objects. This results in versions of Ghostbusters, Rush Hour 2, RoboCop and many other films which are much different from the originals. The movies are an instant hit, but how long can the boys keep us this ruse?

Be Kind Rewind is ostensibly a movie where the two main characters remake classic films. Ironically, watching it is like viewing several different movies at once. The main selling point of the film is the fact that Mike and Jerry use whatever elements and people they have handy to make their own versions of famous movies. These segments are somewhat funny and often quite clever. The way in which they re-create the proton streams from Ghostbusters or the 360-degree jog in space from 2001 are ingenious. (Although, I must admit, it was the gunshot wound from Boyz N the Hood which made me laugh the most.) Gondry's true creativity comes into play when the entire screen moves and shows static, as Mike is even causing the movie that we are watching to malfunction. Also, the arguments which Mike and Jerry get into while making the movies are also humorous.

Of course, these movie spoofs can’t sustain the entire film and this is where Writer/Director Michel Gondry loses control of the film. While he certainly needs to add more elements to the story, he shoots himself in the foot by adding too much. In short, Be Kind Rewind is rife with subplots. This wouldn’t be so bad if they were more fully formed. We’ve got Jerry’s beef with the power plant, Mr. Fletcher’s fight to keep his store open and his obsession with the rival video store, Miss Falewicz’s (Mia Farrow) odd extended family, and Mike & Jerry both having a crush on Alma (Melonie Diaz). Each of these is touched on, but never fully explored. (Especially the thing with Jerry and the power plant. That piece sets off the film’s main story and I still couldn’t tell you exactly what was happening there.) The oddest part of the film is the subplot concerning musician Fats Waller. At the outset, Waller’s name is simply used as a historical part of Passaic, New Jersey. Then, it becomes part of the plot when we learn that Waller was born in the building which now houses Be Kind Rewind, and that Mr. Fletcher plans to use this to save his store. But, the third act somehow becomes about Fats Waller’s life and the story moves in a totally different direction, until the finale is the kind of “come on gang, let’s save our neighborhood” story that we’ve seen time and time again. This last act practically grinds the movie to a halt, and we forget any of the creativity from the first half.

Michel Gondry made a name for himself with music videos and then wowed us with the very creative Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. At the outset, Be Kind Rewind seems to be practically bursting with the same kind of creative potential. And for a while, it delivers, as the movie re-creations are very imaginative. But, once you move beyond that, the movie finds Gondry in a quandary. He attempts to infuse the movie with character development and lots of heart. Normally, this would be a good thing, but here, it merely makes the film feel very convoluted and we never get the answers that we really want. (Is there something wrong with Mike?) The best way to describe Be Kind Rewind is disappointment. The movie is in no way bad, it simply gets lost along the way. I’ll be kind and say rent it.

Be Kind Rewind transcends VHS on DVD courtesy of New Line Home Entertainment. The DVD contains both the fullscreen and widescreen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain in some shots. The image is free from any defects from the source material. The colors look good, as Gondry has shot the film in a very natural style. The image is never overly dark or bright. Some of the darker shots did show some artifacting however. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The film's music sounds very good, and the musical scenes fill the speakers. Crowd scenes provide us with some nice surround and stereo effects. Being a dramatic comedy, we don't get much in the way of subwoofer action.

The Be Kind Rewind DVD contains only two extras. "Passaic Mosaic" (10 minutes) is an interesting documentary which details the making on Be Kind Rewind on location in Passaic, New Jersey. Instead of focusing on the actors or director (who do appear in this piece), it shows the locals who appeared in the movie and we hear the history of the city and their thoughts on having a movie shot there. The only other extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film which is letterboxed at 2.35:1.

New Line Home Entertainment has also brought Be Kind Rewind to Blu-ray Disc. The film is again letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 17 Mbps. This transfer looks very good, as the image is quite sharp and clear. The image shows no grain and no defects from the source print. The colors are fantastic and quite realistic looking. The image has a nice depth and noticeable improvement in detail over the DVD. The Blu-ray has a DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track brings us very clear dialogue and sound effects. The stand-out scene here is Jerry's "accident" scene. The buzzing and popping fills the speakers and provides a nice amount of bass as well. Overall, the track provides a nice variety of surround and stereo effects. Again, the music sounds very good.

The Be Kind Rewind Blu-ray Disc contains "Passaic Mosaic" and the THEATRICAL TRAILER, plus many more extras than the DVD. "Booker T & the Michel Gondry" (7 minutes) shows how Gondry brought together a group of famous and influential blues and R&B performers for a scene in the film. We see a lot of on-set footage from this scene. In "Jack & Mos Improvise Songs" (5 minutes), Black & Def make up a song during the Boyz N the Hood scene. This is sort of confusing, as we aren't told why they are doing this. "A Conversation with Jack Black & Michel Gondry" (6 minutes) offers an oddly intimate and off-the-cuff chat with the actor and director. "Fats was Born "Here" (11 minutes) delivers the entire short film from the finale in its entirety. "The Making of Be Kind Rewind" (33 minutes) is an in-depth piece which features narration and a wealth of benind-the-scenes footage. We get a lot of comments from Gondry, as he explains his approach to the film, both technically and storywise. The segment also closely examines the "sweded" movies. There are comments from Black and other cast members. "Mos Def, Michel Gondry, and Jean-Michel Bernard Live! - Tribute to Fats Waller" (6 minutes) is simply a live performance by the trio.

Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long