Be Cool (Blu-ray)
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 120 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; DTS 5.1 French, others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, many others
MSRP: $ 16.99
Release Date: July 5, 2011
Review Date: July 31, 2011
Chili Palmer (John Travolta) has been in the movie business for a decade, but he’s already tiring of all the business deals and compromises it takes to get a film produced. At The Viper Club one evening, he spies talented singer Linda Moon (Christina Milian) who’s tied to a personal contract with sleazy music producer Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel) and manager Raji (Vince Vaughn) who have done nothing to advance her career. Chili announces to them both that he’s taking her himself and branching into the music business with newly widowed record company owner Edie Athens (Uma Thurman) who is $300,000 in debt to rap promoter Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer). When Nick hires Joe Loop (Robert Pastorelli) to rub out Chili and Sin hires a Russian mobster to do the same, everyone finds himself at odds with one another until all of the contracts and misunderstandings can be straightened out.
While there are undoubtedly some funny moments to be had with some casting against type (The Rock playing a gay hit man) or taking pot shots at the rap world with an honest to goodness rapper (André “3000” Benjamin as the klutziest and goofiest gangsta imaginable), most of Peter Steinfeld’s script seems stale and rather desperate. Obviously, director Gray has allowed his actors to improvise to their hearts’ content as Vince Vaughn (as a wanna-be white gangsta) and Cedric the Entertainer riff and riff in scene after scene trying to find something funny to say or do (it eludes them more often than not). The basic storyline, though, just isn’t very interesting (giving an up-and-comer her big break was old hat even back in 1933’s 42nd Street), and the bait-and-switch tactics Chili uses to pit one side against the other don’t offer much in the way of amusing interplay or surprising comeuppance. The film is (and has to be since it involves the record business) music heavy with newcomer Milian singing "Beliver" rather nicely and dueting in the climactic "Was Tryin'" with Steven Tyler and Aerosmith.
John Travolta won a Golden Globe award for his performance in Get Shorty, but he deserves no kudos for this lackadaisical performance. Gray has staged a dance reunion with co-star Uma Thurman that brings back memories of their twist in Pulp Fiction, but that’s about the extent of Travolta’s exertion in the movie. Uma Thurman also makes only a slight impression. Sure, she looks great, but her character is paper thin, and she can’t do anything to bring her to life. Vince Vaughn’s white-as-black shtick wears out its welcome early, but we’re stuck with it for the entire movie. As we’ve seen in many subsequent films, The Rock (as Dwayne Johnson is billed here) has always been game for anything in the movies, whether it be dressing in a tutu and fairy wings or leading a ballet troupe for his daughter’s recital, so it comes as no surprise that he’s the best thing about the movie as Elliot Wilhelm, the gay hit man with dreams of show biz stardom. He doesn’t overplay the fey mannerisms (around such a macho bunch of men in the cast, he deserves an Oscar for his restraint) and etches a rather endearing portrait of a man hiding his gentility under the guise of a tough guy. Christina Milian as the rising singing star has a nice voice and acts the role with some thought, but the charisma isn’t there. When she shares the stage with Steven Tyler near the end of the film, he blows her off the stage with his star power. Other cameos which dot the film include Seth Green, Black Eyed Peas and Sergio Mendez, Wyclef Jean, Fred Durst, and Gene Simmons. Danny DeVito reprises his actor character from the first film while talented performers like Harvey Keitel, Paul Adelstein, and James Woods are generally wasted in throwaway parts.
The film’s 2.40:1 theatrical aspect ratio is replicated in this beautiful 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is excellent in the transfer, and much detail in faces, clothes, and furnishings can be gleaned as the film runs. Color is deeply saturated throughout with reds registering especially brightly. Flesh tones are likewise deeply tanned due to the thick saturation levels of the color timing, but they aren’t inappropriate for what is clearly an adult, show biz fairy tale. Black levels are very good. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is not the equal of the video transfer. The film is music heavy, and much of it does make its way into the front and rear surrounds (John Powell’s background score is fairly generic) and makes a good impression. Ambient effects, however, are not spread through all the available channels, and those concerts and music videos and the climactic award show should have been much more sonically active. Dialogue has been well recorded and is present strongly in the center channel.
All of the featurettes are presented in 480i.
“Be Cool: Very Cool Making-of Documentary” is the EPK puff piece extolling the virtues of the cast and crew of the movie. In 21 ½ minutes, the director, producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher, and stars John Travolta, Uma Thurman, The Rock, Cedric the Entertainer, Christina Milian, and Vince Vaughn discuss their enthusiasm for the movie.
There are fourteen deleted scenes which may be viewed individually or in one 17 ½ minute grouping.
The film’s gag reel runs 7 ¼ minutes.
The Rock’s music video of “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man” is played in its 4 ¼-minute entirety (it’s only excerpted in the film).
There are five “Close Up” featurettes presenting various members of the cast in up close interviews about an aspect of the film or their characters:
- Dance Partners finds John Travolta and Uma Thurman along with director F. Gary Gray discussing their dance sequence in the movie. Fatima Robinson who choreographed it is also interviewed. It runs 3 ½ minutes.
- The Rock has 6 minutes to discuss his character and the work with Robinson that went into his music sequence.
- André 3000 discusses his role and along with director Gray talks about his transition from music to movies in this 4 ½ minute piece.
- Cedric the Entertainer along with director Gary Gray and producers Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher discuss his work in the movie in this 5 ½-minute clip.
- Christina Milian discusses the importance of showing everything she could do in her first film in this 5 ½-minute vignette.
3/5 (not an average)
Lacking the story, the satire, and the laughs of Get Shorty, its sequel Be Cool wastes the talents of its multi-star cast on a narrative that doesn’t do them justice. Still, the film looks stupendous in high definition, and previous DVD bonus features have been ported over for fans of the film to savor again.