Feb 272008
Authors: Jeff Schwartz

“Be Kind Rewind” is a comedic fantasy from the mind of Michel Gondry, a director whose previous credits include “The Science of Sleep” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

The film has gotten flack from some critics for either not being as good as “Eternal Sunshine,” or for not premising the story in reality.

Well, of course “Be Kind Rewind” isn’t as good as “Eternal Sunshine” – one of the best films of the last decade.

And as for the lack of realism, all of Gondry’s films contain elements of science fiction, fantasy or just plain whimsy; going to a Michel Gondry film and expecting realism is a little like going to a Michael Bay film and expecting a story or complex characters.

“Be Kind Rewind” is experienced best when the viewer simply surrenders to Gondry’s vision and to the enthusiastic abandon of his actors’ performances.

Be Kind Rewind is the name of a video store (as in VHS, not DVD) in Passaic, New Jersey, owned by Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) and staffed by Mike (Mos Def).

The store doesn’t have many customers, except Jerry (Jack Black), Mike’s friend, who comes around mostly to tell Mike about his conspiracy theories involving the power plant behind the store.

Disaster strikes when Jerry’s attempt to sabotage the power plant leaves him “magnetized,” which causes him to accidentally erase all the tapes in the video store.

Jerry, though, has a plan: He and Mike will remake (or “swede” as he calls it) the films themselves. At first Mike is incredulous, but after their first swede (of “Ghostbusters”) is a success, he comes around to Jerry’s idea, and soon the duo is sweding everything from “Rush Hour 2” to “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

The biggest laughs in “Be Kind Rewind” are the scenes where Jerry and Mike remake the films with little except a camcorder and some rudimentary, yet inventive, special effects.

There is a hilarious scene where Jerry insists on shooting a night scene even though there isn’t time to wait until it gets dark.

Their solution is to use the “negative” effect on the camcorder, and then Xerox pictures of their faces that they can wear as masks so that their faces will be visible to the audience.

What sells “Be Kind Rewind” is the characters’ sincerity and their belief in the value of their films. Jack Black in particular is perfect as Jerry, a manic man-child whose enthusiasmfor remaking movies is infectious.

“Be Kind Rewind” isn’t perfect, but its lack of perfection is also a part of its appeal. The important thing about the films Jerry and Mike swede is that they are imbued with heart, and the same is true of “Be Kind Rewind.”

Staff writer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

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