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BE KIND REWIND

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Melonie Diaz
Director: Michel Gondry
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1, Full Screen 1.33:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 102 Minutes
Release Date: June 17, 2008

“These are custom made. Sweded, it’s a very rare type of video.”

“Swede? Like Sweden?”

“Yeah, Sweded.”

“It’s a country, not a verb.”

“Exactly. That’s why it’s expensive. Because it’s a faraway, expensive country.”

Film ***1/2

In today’s DVD age, the chances of a movie where VHS tapes play a huge part in the story may sound a little unlikely. But leave it to the brilliant and original mind of writer/director Michel Gondry to conceive not only such a movie, but also one of the most endearing and hilariously inventive comedies I’ve ever seen. Be Kind Rewind is movie that may not play to everyone’s taste, but will win over anyone who watches it.

Gondry has a gift for blending together fantasy and human-oriented comedy. The combination of those two elements helped to create brilliant Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. With this movie, Gondry manages to throw in elements of screwball comedy in as well, resulting in another one-of-a-kind film from the unique visionary.

The story centers in on lifelong pals Jerry (Jack Black) and Mike (Mos Def), who work less than a block from each other in the close-knit neighborhood of Passaic, New Jersey. Mike works at a video store/thrift mart called Be Kind Rewind, which only rents out VHS tapes at a cheap price. And Jerry works at a nearby junkyard, which happens to be located right next to a power plant.

One night, while attempting to sabotage the power generators, Jerry gets zapped by a magnetic field. When he goes to visit Mike at the video store the following morning, he unknowingly erases all of the videotapes by way of his newly magnetized head. This presents a huge problem for Mike, who is keeping watch of the store while his boss, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) is away on business.

The two soon devise a truly strange plan. They grab hold of a camcorder and begin re-shooting their own versions of many of the store’s titles, just so that  their customers will have something to rent. They start with a re-creation of Ghostbusters, in what has got to be one of the funniest sequences I’ve ever seen.

Well, as fate would have it their version, which only runs 20 minutes, gets a great reaction from one of the regular customers. Before long, Jerry and Mike are re-creating or, as Jerry calls it, “swede” more and more movies. These titles range from RoboCop to Rush Hour 2 to even The Island of Dr. Moreau.

As a result from the popular demand for their cheap versions of popular movies, Jerry and Mike become local celebrities. People are soon lining up around the block outside the store. Even Mr. Fletcher, who’s considering converting the store to DVD, gives into the concept, resulting in an unlikely profit increase.

Be Kind Rewind is, to me, the illustration of a perfect comedy. That is, you laugh at the funny bits of the movie, and when you’re not laughing you’re smiling. The movie has the feeling of a classic Capra comedy, only this time the uplifting qualities don’t feel force-fed to us.

Because I found the premise so intriguing, I certainly wasn’t expecting one of Jack Black’s funniest performances to date. True, Mr. Black is pretty much playing his trademark doofus character, but it works tremendously here. His character’s freak accident leads to some of the actor’s funniest moments on film to date.

The rest of the cast is engaging as well. It’s nice to see Danny Glover take on something of a light comic role. Mia Farrow is at her sunny best as one of the store’s top customers. And newcomer Melonie Diaz is delightful as Alma, a neighborhood girl who becomes part of Jerry and Mike’s film crew.

In the end, Be Kind Rewind is not only a winning and inventive comedy, but also a film for film lovers everywhere. By the end of the movie, I guarantee you that if you have a love for films and their purpose, you will find a warm spot in your heart. It’s another fine achievement from Michel Gondry, and certainly one of the year’s best comedies.

Video ****

This release from New Line boasts a fantastic looking picture. The disc does also include a Full Screen version, but this is a truly a panoramic widescreen movie and watching it in the alternate form will result in major cropping of the picture. The anamorphic picture is excellent from beginning to end, with sharp imaging, crisp detail and phenomenal colors. The all around detail is nothing but solid quality.

Audio ***

Though this is mostly a dialogue-oriented comedy, the 5.1 mix servers it a most satisfactory level. Some physical pratfalls in some early scenes do provide a good boost, and frequent music on the soundtrack also adds quite a bit. And to be truthful, the cheap sound of the re-created films is pretty strong too!

Features *

It’s unfortunate that this New Line release couldn’t get the Platinum 2-disc treatment. Included on this disc is a Theatrical Trailer and a brief featurette titled “Passaic Mosaic”, which runs about ten minutes.

Summary:

Of all the movies I’ve seen this year, Be Kind Rewind is without question one the most fun and enjoyable. The balance between comedy and sweetness is terrifically handled, proving that nobody by Michel Gondry can do a better balancing act.

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