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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Video > Filmmaking > Be Kind Rewind (2008/New Line Cinema Blu-ray)

Be Kind Rewind (2008/New Line Cinema Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: C+     Film: C+



As a maker of short films and Music Videos, Michel Gondry’s work is some of the most vibrant, creative, innovative and clever out there, yet as a feature film director, it has been mixed from the clever (Science Of Sleep) to the overrated (Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) to unexpected combinations of documentary and concert that work well (Dave Chappelle’s Block Party) to his new film, Be Kind Rewind (2008) is at first a comedy.  However, in all of its fun and dumb fun, something more serious lies beneath.


The outright comedy angle is about a video store owned for eons by an experienced, streetwise man (Danny Glover) who has only VHS and is battling a chain now with on DVD.  He has a good assistant in Mike (Mos Def) that he trusts so much, that when he has to go out of town, he leaves him to run the store.  The only stipulation, don’t let Jerry (Jack Black) in because he will only cause trouble or worse.  One night, Jerry convinces Mike to join him in invading the local power plant to illegally hook up electric, but Mike bails.  Even worse, Jerry is electrocuted, but does not die or even need hospitalization.


Instead, he has become magnetized and when he visits the store, erases the entire library of tapes!


One customer/friend (Mia Farrow) wants to rent Ghostbusters and it is blank, so the guys consider getting another VHS, but it is too late to have one shipped and when they cannot find one, Mike’s brainstorm is to dig out a huge old VHS camcorder… and remake it!


He says if they shoot enough from a distance, no one will notice, so off they go doing the remake their way.  And that is just the beginning.


The idea is funny and dumb and Gondry knows it, but he finds a way to do it and sticks with it no matter what.  At best, it feels like a homage to the many plays the broke-but-resourceful kids in the Our Gang/Little Rascals series managed to pull off despite The Great Depression (no political point here we could find in that, though they did not have camcorders in the 1930s) and on that level, it works and never lets up.


On the other hand, that does not always make for a fully developed feature film, yet it is different enough and unique enough that only a Gondry could have got it made and released on a major scale as this was.  Beneath it all, however, is a much more serious question about ownership and living, which may have even made some in Hollywood uncomfortable.


Of course, copyright infringement is an issue and Gondry is lucky he could get his film made now before a VHS store was part of a period piece.  It takes VHS to ignore downloading to make the point that some of us love films and like living in them, but still need to live a life and many of those same viewers have the desire to direct whether they want to admit it or not.  If they do, where does their authorship start and that of other filmmakers and studios end?


There are no easy answers, though using Fats Waller’s legacy as the individualist and innovator expressed throughout the film (down to the opening video spoofing Gondry’s own brilliant Lucas With The Lid Off (by Lucas) Music Video) looking like someone impersonating Gondry (!) has the director covering all of his bases and trying to get the audience to think without it being a legal or filmmaking class is a great gesture towards the audience and a sign he respects them very much.


That is why, in the long run, Be Kind Rewind may become a cult favorite and much more.  It did thin box office, but Blu-ray and DVD will likely find it a new audience, not to mention other outlets.  Luckily, Black is enjoying a deservedly huge hit in the very amusing CG animated feature Kung Fu Panda, which will hopefully generate curio interest in this film.  No, Rewind is not some comic tour de force, but it does not have to be and if anything, needs to be subtle to pull off its intents, which makes it worth a look and some of your patience.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 image is a little on the soft side, despite the fact that it was shot in anamorphic J-D-C Scope, but some of the footage is VHS (the way they shoot their remakes) and Director of Photography Ellen Kuras (Swoon, Bamboozled, I Shot Andy Warhol, Neil Young: Heart of Gold) has worked with Gondry before (Block Party, Eternal Sunshine) and does not always like to have a regular shoot, adding different items along the way, no matter the cost of clarity, fidelity and adding a different kind of consistency than one of detail or depth, as she does in this case.  Except for hurting the reputation of real scope a bit, this is not bad, but rarely is it demo quality either.


The DTS-HD Master Audio (MA) lossless 7.1 mix is really, really pushing the original audio to the breaking point, especially since the film is joke and dialogue-based for all intents and purposes.  Longtime Gondry collaborator Jean-Michel Bernard once again adds a score for his feature work and it is good.


Extras include a complete Fats Waller bio, tribute to Waller by Mos Def, Gondry & Bernard, a Black/Gondry “conversation” interview, making-of featurette, behind-the-scenes featurette, Portrait of Passaic, New Jersey and watch as Black and Mos Def improvise the “Sweded” theme song!


For more on Gondry, try this link to the terrific collection of the shorts that put him on the map in The Works Of Michel Gondry:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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