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By Mark Bell | February 24, 2008

Be kind? I’ll try…

The first word that came to mind when I walked out of Michel Gondry’s latest cinema experience, “Be Kind Rewind,” was “underwhelming.” Simply, I had just sat through a comedy that wasn’t funny, a drama that wasn’t touching and, all told, a mess of a story told by actors making some of either the laziest or most daring of choices, depending on your perspective. Sometimes both.

“Be Kind Rewind” tells the story of old Mr. Fletcher’s (Danny Glover) VHS rental, seemingly the only video store in the United States that not only has never contained a DVD, but is run by a man who has never heard of the format. When real estate developers come into buy the building, Mr. Fletcher cuts out of town on a “research” mission to other video stores to see what he can do to bring in more cash and, hopefully, save his store. In a bold (read: stupid) move, he leaves the store in the hands of the slow-witted Mike (Mos Def). When Mike’s friend Jerry (Jack Black) has a mis-hap during an attempt to sabotage a power plant that he lives next to (still following, good for you), his body becomes magnetized. This causes his next visit to the video store to be a catastrophe, as he winds up erasing all the tapes by touching or being near them. Mike, not wanting to let Mr. Fletcher down, decides, with Jerry’s help, to start re-making the films in the hopes that no one will notice, particularly the slightly off Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow), who has a hankering for “Ghostbusters” (which she has never seen). Oh, and Fats Waller is important too.

If one is to believe the marketing for the film, we were to be treated to tons of fun re-makes as Mike and Jerry re-imagine all these classic films and slowly save the store. The reality, however, is that beyond the first one, “Ghostbusters,” the remaining re-makes are pretty much jammed together in either a montage or given small scene teasers (if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the best bits). In other words, not really all that important. What apparently is important is that the community comes together to help make the films and, ultimately, try to save Mr. Fletcher’s store (and their neighborhood… or something). Oh, and Fats Waller is important too.

Mos Def turns in what could quite easily be the worst performance of his acting career (and I’m no naysayer, the man has serious skills), portraying Mike as a man who may’ve been dropped repeatedly on his head as a child. Jack Black doesn’t do much better, simply phoning in another performance as that loud guy he perfected in “High Fidelity” and has slowly been filing down since “School of Rock.” Danny Glover plays the old Mr. Fletcher well (his soft-spoken demeanor almost makes you forget he was a bad-a*s in the “Lethal Weapon” flicks), Mia Farrow is obviously just being her kooky, off-kilter self and Melonie Diaz does a good job as the female accomplice to Mike and Jerry’s plan (though, like Mike, she may’ve been bounced off her noggin a couple times too). Come to think of it, everyone in this film dumbs-down their performances. This may be the dumbest town in America.

I used to think Michel Gondry could do no wrong. I don’t think that anymore, particularly as a writer. Sure, the “Ghostbusters” sequence is hilarious (one of only two laughs in the flick, the other involving camouflage), but the rest of the film is just a paint-by-numbers picture completed by a dyslexic. Save Mr. Fletcher’s store? Why? It doesn’t make any money, and is in a dangerous, condemned building that the real estate developers will only be able to improve and bring up to code. And are the people in the neighborhood that hard up that crappy versions of classic films is worth their hard-earned money? There’s a rival, Blockbuster-esque video store subplot that doesn’t make any sense, because if everyone is so comfortable with Mr. Fletcher’s VHS crap-factory, then how could a DVD rental store be that much more successful? None of it makes any connect-able sense. Oh, and Fats Waller is important too.

That’s as kind as I can be with this cinematic calamity. I wanted to love this movie, the premise alone was enough to get me in the theater, but the final product is such a mash-up of s**t that it’s just not worth your money. You’d be better off re-making classic films with your friends and showing them to each other than watching Jack Black sleep-ham his way through another role while Mos Def drools in the corner.

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