Torch Online reviews: Be Kind Rewind

Just as the world has come to fully embrace Blu-Ray as the future of home video entertainment, director Michel Gondry is taking audiences a step back. Not laserdisc, or even superbit, but all the way to VHS with Be Kind Rewind. Starring Jack Black and Mos Def, Gondry’s film is a creative one, but at the end of the day it just doesn’t live up to what it could have been.

In Passaic, New Jersey, Mike (Def) goes about his days working at Be Kind Rewind, a video and thrift store owned by Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover). Business is slow, but to make matters worse, the building is virtually unlivable, so the city is trying to shut them down. Trying to escape, Mr. Fletcher tells Mike to take over the store while he is away on a trip in honor of Fats Waller, a famous jazz musician who “lived” in the building and is idolized by Mike.

But prior to leaving, Mr. Fletcher warns Mike to keep his friend Jerry (Black) away from the store. Mike doesn’t understand, and sure enough, Jerry inadvertently wipes the tapes clean after becoming magnetized during what can only be described as one of the most ridiculous and unbelievable scenes in the past few months. In a bind, Jerry and Mike do the only thing they can do: remake the movies on their own (or “swede” the movies, as they say).

If you know Michel Gondry, then you would know that this is his type of film. He did an amazing job with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but for some reason this just does not seem completely right. Rewind has the appropriate feel of a homemade film, but there are too many points where it will just drop off for a bit too long. It is like an awkward pause during a radio show; something really funny could have just happened, but then silence ensues because they aren’t sure what to do with themselves.

And while the film is genuinely funny, it just does not prove to be quite as funny as it could have been. That is exactly what is wrong with the film: it is there, but it does not capitalize enough. Some of the more subtle jokes are funnier than the more “obvious” ones. The acting is solid but didn’t seem to be very demanding, though some of Jack Black’s lines seem to make fun of his real life self. Mos Def has proven himself before this, but he gets damn hard to understand during a couple parts of the movie.

The “sweded” films themselves are actually done in clever fashion and are rightfully the highlight of the movie. Ghostbusters takes center stage first, but Rush Hour 2 matches its hilarity. You see clips of other sweded films, which leaves you begging for more. Thankfully, Gondry has put them up online, so you can wander onto the movie’s official site for the sweded films.

So even though Be Kind Rewind doesn’t completely impress, it isn’t a failure. It’s an enjoyable film if you have the time for it but doesn’t go too far beyond that.

2.5/4 stars