“Be Kind Rewind” is a goofy, touching love letter to the movies

By Bill Wine
Posted 12/31/20

A one-joke premise it may be. But the central joke in “Be Kind Rewind” (2008) has lots of funny variations. And I'm not just trying to be kind.

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“Be Kind Rewind” is a goofy, touching love letter to the movies

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A one-joke premise it may be. But the central joke in “Be Kind Rewind” (2008) has lots of funny variations. And I'm not just trying to be kind.

"Be Kind: Rewind" is what video stores – remember them? -- used to request of their regular customers. As for the Be Kind Rewind video store in this aggressively quirky lark, it's headed the way of the dinosaur.

Jack Black plays an eccentric Passaic, New Jersey mechanic who's certain that microwaves in the nearby power plant are killing him. So he tries to sabotage the plant, gets caught in an electromagnetic field, and ends up magnetized.

Then he walks into the local video store managed by his lifelong buddy, played by Mos Def. It's a modest operation, stocking only VHS tapes – remember them? – that's struggling against the West Coast Video chain, with its newfangled DVDs.

Sure enough, he inadvertently erases the entire inventory of movies in the store.                                     

Then, in order to satisfy the store's most loyal customer, played by Mia Farrow, the two friends grab a camcorder and some props and set out to "remake" many of the lost films, including “Ghostbusters,’ “The Lion King,” “Robocop,” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”

 And who's to play all the characters in all these movies? Why, the two of them, of course. Suddenly Be Kind Rewind has turned into Be Fake Remake.

These partners in grime will certainly be seen through by struggling store owner Danny Glover, and railed against immediately by indignant patrons, right?

Wrong: the viewers like their low-budget, twenty-minute-long remakes, which become local word-of-mouth hits.

The wannabe moviemakers thus become neighborhood celebrities and then, as if prophesying the eventual existence of YouTube, they begin casting their enthusiastic friends and neighbors in their cheesy movies.

But not everyone is so appreciative. Especially Hollywood lawyer Sigourney Weaver, who charges intellectual property theft and copyright infringement, and demands that the tapes be destroyed.

Writer-director Michel Gondry's characteristically whimsical comedy is part satire, part slapstick, part screwball farce, and part fairy tale.

And although patches of it are as much funny-peculiar as funny-ha ha, the sequences involving movie remaking are occasionally laugh-out-loud hilarious.

But oddball charm is the real stock in trade, and it's here in abundance.

Black is more than happy to swing for the broad-comedy rafters, as is his wont, and Def contributes a complementary performance that's wonderfully low-key: he's a natural.

Be Kind Rewind” is a goofy, touching love letter to the emotion fixtures we call motion pictures.

Hey, for a movie lover, what's not to like?

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