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DVD Review

Be Kind Rewind


Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow and Melonie Diaz
Pathé Distribution Ltd
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 30 June 2008

Jerry and Mike are childhood friends living in Passaic, New Jersey. Jerry is the neighbourhood mechanic and lives in a trailer near the power plant which he swears is slowly killing him with its ‘microwaves’. When Jerry becomes magnetised while trying to sabotage the power plant, he accidentally erases all the tapes in the old-fashioned video store ‘Be Kind Rewind’, where his best friend works. Already struggling to keep the ailing business financially afloat, Jerry and Mike decide to remake one of the erased movies in order to keep their few customers happy. To their astonishment, their unique ‘Sweded’ version of the movie is a hit. Soon, Mike and Jerry are in full-time production, re-making movies, from Ghostbusters to King Kong...

Be Kind Rewind is a comedy written and directed by French filmmaker Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

The biggest problem with this movie is that it tries to do too many things and ends up doing none of them very well. The film feels like a collection of stories that are never really seen through to their conclusion. It's as though the director can't make up his mind what storyline to follow and so we end up with at least three strong plot threads that bleed into one another without really gelling very well.

The end result is a movie that heads off in one direction, changes it's mind and sets off on another path. The film starts with a look at the lives of our two heroes Mike and Jerry. Mike works in a video store (which rents only VHS tapes for a dollar a day), while his friend Jerry, a mechanic, lives in an old camper van which is parked in the yard of the garage he works for - right next to the local power station.

Convinced the electricity from the station is messing with his head, Jerry decides to sabotage it. Unfortunately he fails miserably and ends up getting electrocuted - magnetising himself in the process. When he goes to tell Mike about his ordeal, his magnetic properties accidentally wipe all of the store's VHS tapes.

Then we have the actual "Sweding" of the movies as the second act. Here Mike and Jerry are forced to make their own versions of movies that people want to rent from the video store. "Sweding" is a term that Jerry makes up to explain why the rental charges for these movie is more expensive - because they are made in Sweden.

The final act sees the locals joining forces to make their own movie based on the life of Fat's Waller, who they claim lived in their neighbourhood - even being born in the building that now houses their video store.

The extras imply that the original vision for this movie was supposed to be all about bringing together a small neighbourhood in order to overcome a problem against unspeakable odds. Well, that's true of the final act, but we never really get to know the residents that well, so it's kind of hard to feel any triumph for them as the movie's final scenes are playing.

Also, you never really get the feeling that the entire neighbourhood was working together. It seems to be just a few (those that gather to watch the film in the video store). So it's a bit of surprise when the entire town just sort of turn up at the end to watch another "Sweded" movie. What could have been a very moving moment just seems flat.

Extras include Passaic Mosaic (9 min, 56 sec interview with cast, crew and the people of Passaic who star in the film. This is interesting for the fact it reveals that the Passaic residents were all extras in the movie); Booker T & Michel Gondry (6 min, 24 sec look at the cut train sequence that had cameos from a number of famous musicians); Jack & Mos Improvise Songs (4 min, 46 sec raw footage of the recording of the two leads making up theme tunes to movies); Conversation with Jack Black & Michel Gondry (5 min, 48 sec tongue-in-cheek interview. The un-PC jokes about Orientals is a little surprising); The Making of Be Kind Rewind (31 min, 59 sec behind-the-scenes featurette. Highlights include the footage from the one-shot movie montage and the crowd pleasing speech offered up to the people of Passaic by the director of photography. Here he attempts to rouse the troops as he gives a speech about how the crew will be leaving to finish the film in the studio and then return to Passaic to bring the movie back to the people. One lone voice can be heard saying: "We don't have a theatre."); Fat's Was Born Here (11 min, 28 sec full version of the Fat's Waller movie - which is good fun); Paris Concert (6 min, 05 sec footage taken from a gig in which the director and Mos Def are part of a group providing live music) and trailers for other movies.

While Be Kind Rewind is not what I was expecting, there's still plenty here that will entertain most viewers. It's just a shame that the director didn't focus more on the neighbourhood pulling together to save the area from redevelopment.


Pete Boomer

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