Be Kind Rewind
Written and directed by Michel Gondry

Starring Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover


Be Kind Rewind

"Be Kind Rewind" is the story of a video rental store in Passaic, New Jersey, which still rents only video cassettes in an era of DVDs. It's run by Danny Glover, as Mr. Fletcher, and it has a claim to fame: it's the place where the great jazz pianist Fats Waller was born. It's also in the way of an urban renewal project for Passaic, and it's likely to be demolished soon. As you can imagine, it's not doing well financially, and then something else happens.

Mr. Fletcher's employee Mike, played by Mos Def, has a friend, Jerry, played by Jack Black, who works at an auto repair place around the corner that's up against a huge electrical power station, which Jerry thinks is messing with his head. So one night he persuades Mike to come with him to sabotage the power station. Instead, the station magnetizes Jerry's own head and when he comes into the video store he wipes out every single cassette. So - what to do now? Well, the boys become video makers and whatever the customers want they make themselves - their own versions of "Ghostbusters," "Robocop," "2001," "Rush Hour 2," even "Driving Miss Daisy," Not only that, the customers actually prefer what the boys call 'Sweding' of the videos, as in these come from Sweden and therefore are better than the originals. Their regular customer Miss Falowicz, played by a well-preserved Mia Farrow, doesn't even know the difference.

So who could have thought this up? Only that French eccentric Michel Gondry, he of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "The Science of Sleep." Is "Be Kind Rewind" in their class as a work of imagination? Unfortunately not; the concept here doesn't have that wild leap into a kind of alternative reality that Gondry brings to the other films, and Jack Black, as the driver of the plot and the instigator of the new 'Sweding' films here, just isn't very funny; as an actor he relies on shouting and pratfalls and going into hysterics, when the film actually calls for someone who can play it straight.

Mr. Gondry has a cult audience here in the United States, but "Be Kind Rewind" isn't going to make him any new friends; I think, irony of ironies, it's headed for an afterlife as a DVD.