Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
US Rating: Rated PG-13 for Some Sexual Reference
Film Length: 102 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo Surround
Subtitles: Optional English and Spanish
The Film - out of
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a sweet and off-beat piece of cinema. In the hands of a director who explored reality through the lense of fantasy, it was a genuinely wonderful and refreshing film. Michael Gondry was the co-writer and director who crafted that tender, funny and dramatic little film and his latest film, while thematically different, remains consistent with his unusual eye.
Be Kind Rewind is a film that deeply appreciates the love of film. It stars Mos Def and Jack Black as Mike and Jerry, two friends in an economically challenged New Jersey town called Passaic, where opportunities are limited and the kind of decay that has run rampant in former industrial towns throughout the country has a deep foothold. These two friends, likeable, well-meaning misfits are asked to look after a video store (where VHS is still king) when their friend Elroy (Danny Glover) takes a trip. The video store “Be Kind Rewind”, is struggling; the building does not meet code and unless something is done, it will be demolished in favor of a brand new apartment building. The video store is also the reported site of a famous blues musicians birth, Fats Waller, a man who Mike (Mos Def) has come to idolize.
The simple task of minding the store goes terribly awry when Jerry (Jack Black) becomes magnetized after an unfortunate and failed attempt to sabotage the electrical facility next to his trailer (which keeps him up at night) and accidentally erases all the movies in the store. When a customer (a spaced out Mia Farrow) specifically asks for a copy of Ghostbusters, a film she admits knowing next to nothing about, Mike and Jerry see the only way to save themselves from disappointing Elroy is to recreate the movie themselves. Using an out of date video camera, home made special effects (tinsel on string to represent the proton streams from their back-pack particle accelerators) and endless on the spot creativity, they set our to achieve their ruse. Much to their surprise, the home made remake is a hit and soon they soon find themselves as local celebrities who must satiate consumer demand by remaking, or as they humorously term, ‘Sweding’ popular Hollywood movies. Everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to When We Were Kings gets ‘Sweded’ and the community can’t seem to get enough. But, as you might expect, they run into some personal and federal issues with their unique plan to save the store (Sigourney Weaver shows up to spoil the mood).
Be Kind Rewind is an unpretentious love-letter to the universal love of movies. It does not succeed on the level of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind because it does not feel as well defined, but what is apparent as you watch the film, is just how much Gondry understands the power of something simple and unifying. Movies are a common language. The diversity in the nature and tone of these ‘make believe’ and ‘reality bending’ fictional and factual celluloid adventures is incredible and we are all innately connection by them. Good movies, bad movies, it doesn’t matter. We have all experienced hundreds and thousands of movies in our lives, a majority of which have been seen and enjoyed by our fellow people in the neighborhood across the street and across the ocean. And that is the link that Gondry chooses as a way to tell a story about a community coming together and the impossible becoming something you just need the right moment to overcome.
There is a simple whimsy about the whole affair that is genuine and playful. The characters are likeable even if there isn’t too much that we get to know about them, beyond a propensity to get into trouble. And the story is filled a cavalcade of ingenious make-believe and visual silliness that struck a chord in this movie lover’s heart. How many of us have, together with like-minded friends, taken a video camera out for a spin and attempted to recreate abbreviated versions of the movies we love with whatever scraps are readily on hand. That’s what this film does, with an unusual spirit, an unafraid lunacy and a good-natured aim. It is easy to buy into the anti-blockbuster sentiment that is floated, with fewer titles but more copies of them and a disregard for smaller, older and non-mainstream films. This might even be a poke of the tongue by director Gondry for a lack of attention the kind of films he loves to make receives. One moment that humorously underscores a line between the geek and the uninformed consumer was an exchange between Mos Def’s concerned Mike and an unhappy customer whose video tape showed nothing but static, when Mike inquires about the machine being used to view the movie:
Mike: “Is your video NTSC?”
Customer: “No, it’s new!”
I like this film, a lot, but I know that it does not succeed in the way that it could have. A little more about the characters; a little more time getting to know them and their movie passions in conversations; more quirky, mischievous dialogue for us to further enjoy them. We get caught up in their adventure and invest in their struggle and when the credits roll, the smile is broad and the feeling warm; but somehow we are still left wanting just a little more from the experience.
Be Kind Rewind is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with the movie clips filmed and shown in 1.33:1. Gondry uses natural lighting (or what appears to be natural) a great deal and there is a gritty and real tone to the video that reminds me of ‘Eternal Sunshine’. I like this style and I think it is the most appropriate for the characters and the story being told. The image is soft at times, which I do not attribute to the visual style, and is my major complaint about the image. The colors in the film have a slightly faded look, but not drained of color, just older and more of the kind you see in opportunity starved concrete and brick wastelands. The movie also captures the look of VHS on a few occasions which I’ll admit had me nostalgic. But just for a moment though!
The audio options available for this release are a rather average sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo surround. A few nifty sound effects and an overwhelming boom from the sub-woofer during a certain scene aside, there is little remarkable about the audio. It serves the purpose of telling the story and is without distortions, but lacks a distinction or energy. In many ways it is suitable for the film. A flashy, over enthusiastic surround sound and bass heavy track would be alien to the nature of what the film celebrates. But something a little more enveloping; just a tad more vibrant and a dose more engrossing would have served the experience better.
Passaic Mosaic - (10:28) – Much like the film, this ten minute featurette is warm-hearted and adorning of its inspiration – this time, the good-people of Passaic New Jersey that were touched and changed by the production of this film in their town. Uncommon for a featurette to make you feel as good as the movie itself did.
Michael Gondry celebrates the independent spirit. He tells the story through the magnificence of what appear at first to be the underachievers. These simple, pleasant and imperfect people, whose warmth and genuine curiosity outstrips their needs for more than life presents them, are refreshing. These characters that recoil at a world that neither understands nor cares for their troubles or their dreams are uncommon. I wish we had been able to get to know Jerry and Mike a little longer and a little deeper, but what we were given of them was enough to know that in their own way they are entirely charming, odd, and unusual. We identify with their passions and get behind their pursuit and are able to walk away from them with a smile.