Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow,
Melonie Diaz. Rated PG-13.
Kind Rewind is a playful conceit, smart and sweetly nostalgic in its
simplicity, and appealingly but inescapably slight.
It does have a certain one-note
charm: Jack Black and Mos Def play amiable types who film crude reconstructions
of Hollywood blockbusters to save their friend’s video store, hastily
reinventing the works of Brett Ratner and Paul Verhoeven with the sensibilities
of junkyard auteurs. The trailer-length, YouTube-style shorts that follow
display a guerrilla approach to filmmaking liberated from big budgets and
massive star egos. They reflect the naļve joy of neophytes whose inexperience
is both comic and endearing.
Indeed, there might not be two
souls in Michel Gondry’s colorful rendering of Passaic, New Jersey, more
laughably inept than Jerry (Black) and Mike (Def). Mike works in Mr. Fletcher’s
video store, a dilapidated hole in the wall scheduled for demolition. Jerry,
played by Black with his usual wild-eyed intensity, lives in a trailer next to
the power plant that may or may not be melting his mind.
As played with unimpeachable
by Danny Glover, Mr. Fletcher is headstrong enough to run a VHS business in a
DVD world, but sensible enough to realize that Jerry and Mike’s schemes are
often steeped in silliness. When Jerry unwittingly demagnetizes an entire
store’s worth of videos after a fateful trip to the power plant, he and Mike
begin taping homemade movies as stopgap replacements. (The process, which fans
on the Internet have already begun to imitate, is known as “Sweding” because,
as Jerry explains, such handiwork is the product of Swedish ingenuity.) Their
efforts strike a chord in a close-knit community eager to embrace an unlikely
pair of hometown heroes whose motto – “You name it, we shoot it!” – becomes
something of a populist war cry against a culture of corporate soullessness.
Gondry is a stronger
storyteller when he infuses his material with the romantic desperation that
drove Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the criminally underappreciated Science of Sleep, this latest work is engaging and funny but comparatively
insubstantial. It’s easy to understand why he chose movies like Ghostbusters, Driving Miss Daisy
and RoboCop as targets for his
affectionate satire. They are cultural behemoths so thoroughly engrained in our
collective consciousness that even the gentlest jabs resonate. But to what end?
and Def are generous
physical comedians, and they throw themselves into their roles with abandon,
but their energy seems somehow misspent in a film that never aspires to be more
than it is. Be Kind Rewind is a
whimsical adventure with genuine affection for its characters, but Gondry’s
story is essentially weightless, a fanciful flight in search of a raison