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BE COOL

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, Steven Tyler, Robert Pastorelli, Christina Milian, Harvey Keitel, The Rock, Danny DeVito
Director: F. Gary Gray
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 120 Minutes
Release Date: June 7, 2005

“The next time you send somebody to my house to kill me…make sure that I’m home.”

Film ***

When we last saw Chili Palmer, he was on the verge of leaving his hoodlum profession and about to become a big time movie producer, not that there is much difference between the two kinds of work. Now, in the aftermath of his solo production, Chili has already had it with the movie biz. Although he has no intention of being linked with entertainment, Chili will be crossing over to a whole new kind of hostile territory, the music industry.

Be Cool, based on Elmore Leonard’s follow up to Get Shorty, continues the misadventures of the former loan shark/former movie producer/the epitome of cool. With a ten year gap between this film and its predecessor, the result isn’t as enthrallingly satisfying as one would hope. While it may lack the edgy humor that made Get Shorty so memorable, there certainly plenty of fun to be had with this star-studded sequel directed by F. Gary Gray (Friday, The Italian Job).

After seeing how dishonest the sequel-plagued movie industry really is, as opposed to the mob where everyone is honest about being dishonest, Chili ponders about returning to his former profession. But one glance at an ultra-talented nightclub singer Linda Moon (Christina Milian), and Chili sets his sights on the music biz, intending to become Linda’s manager just as quick as he became a movie producer. But it won’t be that easy, as Chili will have to deal with a whole new assortment of lowlifes, as the music industry is filled with them.

He becomes business partners with acquaintance, and recently widowed music exec Edie Athens (Uma Thurman) and attempts to get everything in place to get Linda a record deal. It seems like an easy task for the cool Chili, but Linda isn’t entirely out of her current contract, which has her performing in a lackluster girl group in nightly gigs at a club. Her managers, fellow ex-hood Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel) and  white pimp-wannabe Raji (the priceless Vince Vaughn) still have a five year hold on Linda’s every move.

To make matters worse, Edie’s record label owes $300,000 to reputed hip hop mogul Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer) in royalties for his group, The Dub M.D.’s (a very clever name). Chili doesn’t break a sweat in fighting off both Sin and Linda’s managers to make the wrong things right. Chili is also at war with a gang of Russian mobsters, who are the very thugs who took out Edie’s husband, the head of the record label. At the same time, Chili is confronted by Raji’s flamboyant bodyguard, Elliot (The Rock), who instead of making threats, wants an acting gig made possible.

Nick knows Chili from their Brooklyn days, but doesn’t intend on letting his star singer leave his label. He and Raji do everything in their power to take Chili out of the picture. This doesn’t payoff for them when a hired hit man takes out the wrong guy, which turns out to be a member of the Russian clan who’s also trying to wipe Chili out. In the midst of all of this, Chili is struggling to get Linda a gig performing with Aerosmith at an upcoming concert.

The joy and fun of Be Cool comes from the amazing cast, which make up for the, at times, wondering story. In addition to Travolta returning to his cool methods, you have him reuniting with Pulp Fiction co-star Uma Thurman. The two even have a cute little dance number, and 11 down the road from doing the twist at Jack Rabbit Slim’s, the two prove that they’ve still got the moves, and then some.

Among the standouts in the cast, there’s Cedric the Entertainer’s entertaining riff on Suge Knight. Cedric even gets to deliver a dynamite monologue when a fellow gangster provokes him one time too many. There’s also a marvelous comedic turn from Andre Benjamin, better known as Andre 3000 of the rap duo Outkast. Andre has many funny moments as a gang banger/hip hopper with bad aim. And lastly, we have The Rock playing the last kind of person you’d expect him to play. It’s a performance you’ll have to see for yourself.

But the one who walks away with the movie is, once again, Vince Vaughn. Although I wish he had a bit more screen time, Vaughn delivers the biggest laughs of the movie as a wannabe pimp/wannabe thug. His dialect is the worst attempt at ghetto slang a white guy could ever attempt, and Vaughn doesn’t pull any punches in making himself look as ridiculous. He even pulls off some attempts as hip hop dancing that simply have to be seen to be believed. Twinkle-Twinkle, baby, Twinkle-Twinkle!

Be Cool is a piece of high-quality entertainment, complete with a magnificent cast and many frequent laughs. The endless in-jokes, self parading performances and bits of art imitating both art and life are the invigorating elements which give the movie life, and more than make up for the barely there plot thread. Be Cool and enjoy!

Video ****

MGM delivers a visually lively looking disc for this release. The anamorphic picture (Full Screen available separately) is as fully clear and incredibly detailed as any recent DVD presentation I’ve seen. Colors are nothing short of amazing, as even some of the characters’ clothing illume with most eye-catching of color rays. Very much a cool job done to a very cool movie.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 mix is more than solid that what is for the most part a dialogue driven comedy. Like Get Shorty before it, the movie does contain several instances of humor-laced violence, which provides an added jolt. Dialogue and music also deliver highly on the clarity scale. Tremendously well done in all the necessary areas.

Features ***1/2

Despite the absence of a commentary track, which in this case would’ve been a real treat, MGM has included some neat bonuses for this disc. First off, there is a full-length documentary titled “Be Cool, Very Cool”, as well as five individual “Close Up” featurettes centering on The Rock, Andre Benjamin, Cedric the Entertainer, Christina Milian, and the dance sequence with John and Uma. Also included is a gag reel, deleted scenes, a music video for The Rock’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man” (no, that’s not a misprint), and a theatrical trailer/bonus trailers.

Summary:

Be Cool is a cinematic fun at its highest. To state it perfectly, if you’re a fan of any of the big name stars in this lengthy cast (especially Vince Vaughn), you shouldn’t hesitate to check out this ultimately cool disc from MGM.

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