Be Kind Rewind
There’s a lot to enjoy in Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, but some of its key pleasures depend, at least in part, on a rather specialized frame of mind. If you’ve already connected with Gondry’s work—Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, or even his pop-visionary music videos—then you’re probably likelier to appreciate the special eccentricities of this persistently fanciful comedy.
The film’s up-front premise—Jack Black and Mos Def as video-store employees doing homemade remakes of movies on accidentally erased tapes—is both preposterous and appealing, and in the actual playing-out that preposterousness becomes part of the appeal.
Jack Black is playing a generic Jack Black character here, somewhere between School of Rock and Nacho Libre, but this isn’t exactly a Jack Black movie in the fuller sense. Rather, he’s one of the essential ingredients in Gondry’s special brand of comic whimsy, which here plays not only on blatant parody, but also, and even more, on allusion and reference.
Consequently, one of the film’s distinctive pleasures comes from the combined associations accruing to the assorted mass-media and cinematic personae in a cast that includes Black, Mia Farrow, Danny Glover, Sigourney Weaver (in a cameo), Mos Def, Kid Creole and Melonie Diaz.
Ghostbusters, Rush Hour and Driving Miss Daisy are conspicuous objects of parody here, but the flimsy farce of Be Kind Rewind itself touches on an intriguingly wide range of topics: urban renewal, the industrialized media, community-based art, the life story of Fats Waller, corporate filmmaking, African-American history, the powers and limits of fantasy, the real and the reel-imagined.
Farrow and Glover make piquantly offbeat impressions very much in keeping with Gondry’s wistfully fanciful romanticism. And Glover’s character offers up the script’s most intriguing allusion—to Stormy Weather, the 1944 Hollywood musical with an all-black cast.