Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews




picture - Be Kind RewindFilm Review

by Kevin Bowen

published February 27, 2008


Be Kind Rewind

rated PG-13

now playing nationwide


One day, technology might finally take us to a place where Michel Gondry can simply push a button and project his imagination onto a blank screen, equally amazing us and annoying us with its hyper flights of fancy.


It will be so much easier for him. No need to lunk around bulky cameras, adjust the lighting, yell at the intern to hit Starbucks or create a reasonable story. Just plug in your mind, and it instantly flies over matter.


If such a machine ever comes to exist, it’s likely that Gondry would have already made a movie about it. In fact, if he has read this review, then he’s probably typing as we speak. From Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to The Science of Sleep, the realm of imagination has become his lone subject matter. With each passing picture, he seems to be waving a little further goodbye to all that reality.


The next step looks like Be Kind, Rewind. If the plot, characters, and actions of this new comedy fail to make much sense, then it’s only because your square mind can’t comprehend the utter richness of his octagonal thinking. Right?


Imagination would seem to be an alien force in an unglamorous place like Passaic, New Jersey, which is up there in American conceptions of drabness with places like Peoria, Illinois or Muncie, Indiana. But Passaic is where Danny Glover and Mos Def tend to a father-son video store. The place probably doesn’t have anything you would actually want to see, but it will rent you what you don't want to see for a dollar. The two men are often visited and harassed by their likable but spacey neighbor Jerry (Jack Black), if by “neighbor” you mean the slacker living in a trailer on an abandoned lot next to the nearby power station.


Now, if you were a stock filmmaker wanting to destroy a store’s worth of VCR tapes as a plot device, you might think up a fire, or a robbery, or something like that. Not Gondry; au contraire. During an unwise joust with the power station, Jerry gets electrocuted and becomes a walking human magnet.  And magnets and video tape do not mix.


So to keep customers coming in the doors, the two young men re-film the movies themselves, using homemade video. They then stick them on the shelves. Why they don’t just claim insurance and order new ones, only Gondry knows. And why any of their customers decide that they like the shoddy product, only Gondry knows that, too. One thing’s for sure – he ain’t telling.  
Watching Black and Def re-doing Ghostbusters with backpacks, vacuum tubes, and Christmas tree tinsel makes for hearty fun. As do the re-creations of Driving Miss Daisy and 2001. So do a lot of the other fevered homemade films, which are a little like watching Max Fischer’s plays in Rushmore.  The problem is that the imaginative horseplay is all that holds the attention of Gondry. The rest of the film is left too much to your imagination and not enough to his.


I admire Gondry’s celebration of the idea that imagination, and not technique, is the first principle of filmmaking. At the same time, it’s not a new idea for film to explore, and other filmmakers have made the point while maintaining a coherent storyline. Until he returns to that formula, he will remain just a loose thought in my head.


kevinbowen @



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