Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Mike (Mos Def) and his good friend Jerry (Jack Black) seem like nice enough guys, if not a bit mentally challenged, while living in one of those big dirty northeastern towns whose name I can’t rightfully remember, though I think it’s in New Jersey somewhere. What these two cats do for a living I really can’t tell you, though I think Mike might work for Elroy (Danny Glover), the owner of the local video store which still stocks only VHS tapes. Judging from Jerry’s constitution I’m going to go ahead and assume that he’s supported by the state in some fashion. So Mike and Jerry spend their days painting murals to Fats Waller, the old time Jazz musician who they believe is from this town that they live in, and regale in tales from Elroy about the good old days.

Elroy however is in a bit of trouble in that the city planners have big plans for the lot of land that his video store sits on and they really need him to move out. They’ve even gone as far as to offer to relocate him, albeit to the projects, but it is in an offer, and it’s an offer he has to take unless he raises the necessary cash to bring his building up to city code and keep it from being demolished for a plush parking lot. Not quite ready to give up the goat quite yet… or is it the term ‘give up the ghost’? What Mr. Malaprop over here is trying to say is that Elroy wants to save his store, and to that end he decides to take a quick sabbatical to find out… well… hell if I know, but he has my support.

Though he’s taking a chance here, Elroy leaves the store in the rather nervous hands of Mike, who I think is kind of like Elroy’s son, but not really. The only request that Elroy makes to Mike is that he keeps Jerry out of the store at all times. Why would Elroy want Jerry away from his store? Well for a number of reasons I’m sure but even Elroy wouldn’t have guessed Jerry would magnetize his brain, through a set of rather spectacular circumstances, and erase every single tape in his store.

Now Jerry and Mike have a bit of a dilemma in that the two or three people on the planet who still want VHS movies all live in this town and they want their ‘Ghostbusters’ or ‘Mad Max’ NOW. Inspiration hits when these two, along with the pretty dry cleaning girl Alma (Melonie Diaz) dream up the plan to recreate ‘Ghostbusters’ guerilla style using and old VHS camcorder, their mechanic, some local landmarks and lots of tinfoil and claim that this movie was the ‘Swedish’ version. Damn if people don’t love the Swedish versions of the movie and clamor for more. Even Elroy isn’t nearly as upset when he returns and finds that all his store’s inventory is destroyed, discovering the good money that people are paying to rent the Swedish version of ‘Rush Hour 2’.

Alas the good times can only last so long as there is the evil MPAA (Sharing is caring guys) and the evil Corporate Developers who want to rain on everybody’s freaking parade, but this town little where Fats Waller hails from (allegedly) is about to show these cats that the MPAA can't crush the spirit and dreams. Well actually they can, quite easily as a matter of fact, but it’s just not going to happen in this movie.

French director Michael Gondry makes whimsical, wispy, off beat movies that don’t make a hell of a lot of money such as ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, which a large number of folks you talk to would place near the top of their top ten, all-time favorite movies list, though I personally don’t know any of these people. ‘Be Kind Rewind’ isn’t nearly as strange as ‘Eternal Sunshine’ or the ‘Science of Sleep’ and one that I enjoyed more than those other two, probably because intellectually speaking I’m probably somewhere in between Mike and Jerry. ‘Be Kind Rewind’ is a modern day, real world fantasy film that features simple, good natured people in a complex mean world doing their best to get by, and though this movie isn’t that challenging, and truth be told whatever the opposite of challenging is, this is what this movie represents, it has such a good heart and sweet tone to it that I found it pretty much irresistible.

Performance wise Jack Black does that Jack Black thing he does, and I think you what that is, and Mos Def pretty much does his Mos Def thing as neither actor steps too far out of their comfort zone which really works well here. Melonie Diaz is simply adorable and Mia Farrow, who shows up as one of those wacky VHS renters, and Danny Glover are ancient as hell, but they are ancient living legends who we relish any opportunity to see them work in their third and final acts. That wasn’t meant to be as morbid as it sounded.

‘Be Kind Rewind’ is harmless and irreverent and though I can see where some viewers can easily dismiss this movie, I really don’t see how anyone can dislike it.

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