Two bumbling store clerks inadvertently erase the footage from all of the tapes in their video rental store. In order to keep the business running, they re-shoot every film in the store with their own camera, with a budget of zero dollars.
In Passaic, NJ, Elroy Fletcher runs a video store in a condemned building he claims was the birthplace of Fats Waller. Fletcher goes on a Waller centennial trip, leaving his foster son Mike in charge of the store. Mike's peculiar friend Jerry tries to sabotage a power station and nearly electrocutes himself, getting magnetized in the process. He inadvertently erases every tape in the store. Mike and Jerry hatch an plan to hide the disaster by making a homemade "Ghostbusters" to rent to a woman whom Fletcher will be phoning to check on them. Soon, with help, their homemade versions of films develop a cult following. Will this new business save the store and the building? What about Fats? Written by
Michel Gondry is a very talented filmmaker especially when it comes to visuals. His music videos and films go beyond simple video marvels into a world of simple visual trickery. This is something Gondry is very good at. Furthermore, he has a do it yourself mantra when it comes to filmaking. He's not into the marvels of CGI. He's more into what you can do without it.
But it takes a little more than visual trickery to make a film a success. Be Kind Rewind is a prime example. The film starts off well enough. Mos Def helps run a video store owned by Danny Glover's character. The store is probably one of the last remaining stores catering to VHS. Jack Black is Mos Def's left of center friend who works at an electrical plant. Through some plan to sabotage the plant, he becomes magnetic, erasing all the tapes.
Our heroes are forced to re-record the movies and do it through a process called "sweding," producing 10-15 minute versions of the film, using a wide array of do it yourself techniques that Gondry himself has utilized in his work. An example is a simple trick where filming through a fan makes the film look old. All of this is fun. The way the guys try to truncate the film's stories into a little time or their lack of knowledge regarding some films like Driving Miss Daisy. the crude effects are fun and are prime examples of why we love Michel Gondry.
The downside to the film is the script, penned by Gondry. Clearly, the film is built around the sweded films. But I was starting to think that watching the sweded films would've been more fun than watching Be Kind Rewind itself. Gondry never fully fleshes out his characters or resolves some of the subplots. The visuals are fun, but when Gondry's forced to wrap up the movie, it becomes a little sporadic and we start to realize the the film doesn't go much beyond its rich concept.
There is something great to take away from this film. And while I have some reservations about the film, my recommendation for the film is based on Gondry's filmaking vision. That is to say, there is clearly a joy of filmaking associated with Gondry that will have me continue to look forward to his work. If you're not sure what I mean, take a look at his promotional materials or at his other short films. The man loves filmaking and has fun with this movie. However, I'd recommend he build an alliance with some good screenwriters that would help his visions become fully realized, and not just good natured diversions, as this film is.
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