Be Kind Rewind

Director    Michel Gondry
Starring    Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow, Arjay Smith
Release    22 FEB (US) 22 FEB (UK)    Certificate 12
4 stars


27th February 2008

Be Kind Rewind is an unsung lament to a sadly dying art. In the same way that Cinema Paradiso harked back to a golden age - the time when the community would gather around a flickering screen and unite by the common spectacle - Michel Gondry's latest effort manages to evoke that dying memory of the time when people would clap at the credits and screenings would sell out.

The determinedly dated plot sees Mos Def and Jack Black fighting the format war of VHS vs DVD as workers at a video rental store, but the story itself acts as a metaphor for the Little Man vs The Unfeeling Corporation - or, if you will, our lives as they are vs the reality we create for ourselves.

When Black's character becomes 'magnetised', the video store's tapes are erased, leaving the pair at the wrath of their customers and their manager, played by Danny Glover. The only way to avoid closure and certain catastrophe? Re-film the movies themselves in their own inimitable (and cost-free) style and hope for the best.

Black and Def cut a wonderful, off kilter tone as they set about 'sweding' the classics, so named because they're filmed on Swedish import tapes. Some of their reinterpretations will have you in tears of laughter (their version of Rush Hour 2 is arguably better than the original), while the phrase 'NightVision' will never mean the same thing again.

The charming ingenuity of the central conceit allows a large number of us who grew up watching TV-dupes and full screen VHS tapes of movies like Ghostbusters, Firefox and the long-forgotten Red Dawn to both mock these films and nostalgically relive them with the benefit of our notoriously unreliable memories and our childhood understandings. After all, would Star Wars have been so good if we were 27 and not 7 the first time we saw it? It's a question no one will ever be able to answer, but Gondry valiantly attempts to tap into that sheer wide-eyed wonder.

The film shifts tone and becomes a eulogy to the dying breed of communal film-making and neighbourhood unity in its final strait. Somewhat oddly, the film ends on a morally ambiguous tone, which fails to satisfy beyond creating a temporary emotion: what the viewer is left with is an uneven and occasionally frustrating experience that is charming, funny and meaningful in a way that very few films even try to achieve, let alone sustain. Be Kind Rewind is a movie made by, and for, anyone who has ever loved a film.

More:  Comedy
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