REVIEW: Be Kind Rewind [2008]

“To all the films with heart, and soul”

Thankfully, Michel Gondry has once again taken his warped mind and melded together a piece of work that is personal and touching, without ever going too far into sentimentality. For all of you who saw the trailer and think that either it will take a one-note joke and beat it to the ground or be out-loud funny at all turns, don’t bother watching because it is neither. I only wish I could have told the four 16-year old girls in front of me who were constantly on their cell phones, talking, making a ruckus as they went to the bathroom halfway through, and at the end yelled out “finally.” Maybe the mistake was bringing it to a Regal and not letting it lie in its rightful home of a Dipson. You will not get mainstream laughs or stellar acting; instead we are shown a whole lot of heart and compassion for the people you love, the town you call home, and the imagination and knowledge that you can make a difference, no matter how small. Be Kind Rewind is a feel-good film that wears its creativity and craft blatantly on the screen. Gondry tells the tale of two men hand-creating movies by molding his own, stamped throughout with his personal fingerprints blemishing each frame.

I could go the easy route and say that the acting was kind of atrocious, but I won’t because I really feel the amateurish quality was deliberate. Between Mos Def, (whom I love as an actor), mumbling, Danny Glover sounding as though his teeth were falling out, and Mia Farrow acting so over the top happy with broad expressions running the gamut, the cast is as unpolished as the “sweded” films they are shooting. Something about that feel works perfectly, though, and I don’t think the movie would have been as successful if they all were pristine. Each plays their part to perfection and even Jack Black reins it in to portray a fully fleshed character and not a caricature as he is used to. Sure you get his manic comedy at times, but just his reaction at the end proves he was into this film completely and was willing to do what was needed for it to succeed. All the supporting roles were great as well with brilliant turns from Melonie Diaz and Irv Gooch (as Wilson) along with Marcus Carl Franklin playing an actual boy, something that was a departure from his very adult portrayal of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There.

But why am I talking about the acting? That is the least of my memories from this film. Gondry is a true genius in the definition of the word. The way he creates set pieces and allows for each erased VHS to be recreated is astonishing. When we are shown a montage of the crew filming multiple stories at once, the true inventiveness comes in. Going from 2001 to Umbrellas of Cherbourg to Men in Black, we are given a brief glimpse of the setup that is slowly turned into the film. Watching a crank with numerous cars spinning while Mos Def and Black are upside in a car looks absolutely absurd until the title flashes on the bottom and you realize it is the tunnel scene of MiB, just an amazing transition. Every second is laced with creativity from a skewed camera angle showing Black slide down a stair banister to appear like a fire poll, the fake depth of field to show Black as King Kong grabbing Diaz, to the laughably perfect mat of a city laying on the ground and shot from above to make it look as though characters are falling to their death off a building. Gondry might have single-handedly created a phenomenon that will be mimicked and YouTubed in the very near future. Heck, he even “sweded” his own trailer to rake up some added press. “Sweded” of course being the term to describe the art of recreating movies to their personalized, condensed format. I’ll buy the DVD just to see the full versions, as I am sure they will be included, (how could they not?).

There is an underlying story of course, a race against time to try and save the video store from demolition—complete with an FBI lawsuit of copyright infringement—but all that takes a very far backseat to the human story at the front. The way these films bring the rundown, low-income city together, as a community, is heart-warming and a big payoff for the film. Credit Gondry for knowing what he was doing too. He shows Ghostbusters being filmed, but then only snippets of the rest so as not to ruin the joke. When the group finally decides to shoot an original story, we are still intrigued by the workmanship that goes into the process because we have not yet been bored by it from before. And of course, he films the finale the only way he could have. As an audience, it really doesn’t matter what the end product is; it’s the reactions of those watching that counts. To see the laughs and the tears on the faces of all the people who helped create their masterpiece is the true endgame that I wanted to see. You won’t experience a more charming and original film, with enough heart to warm those in it and those outside in the theatre watching, anytime soon.

Be Kind Rewind 8/10 | ★ ★ ★


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