Michel Gondry's new movie, Be Kind, Rewind, lacks the same humor and touching human moments of Jack Black's Nacho Libre. But it isn't a Jack Black film, and shouldn't be judged as such. It's a Michel Gondry film and fits quite logically in the annals of his past work for Bjork, The White Stripes, and The Chemical Brothers. He is a left-of-center filmmaker to be sure and one should be expecting as much when paying to see this film. Being a huge Jack Black and Nacho Libre fan, I was expecting apples and got oranges.
The crux of the story, it seemed to me, was the idea of how funny it would be for Jack Black and Mos Def to remake home versions of classic '80s films like Ghostbusters and Robocop (to name a couple). The trouble is, apart from a few slapstick jokes with Jack Black, there's zero humor in it as a concept. Once we've seen them redo Ghostbusters in the backyard, we've seen the way they redo every movie. This is done through a process they call "Sweding," or remaking with "granny's closet" costumes and household items like altered moped helmets and aluminum foil. It is very lackluster and gets old very fast. I assume fans of Michel Gondry will appreciate this film for the visuals but in my opinion, even those are not much to write about.
Visuals in the movie include cardboard renderings of props like cars that are moved about in forced carelessness. A spinning fan is put in front of the camera to make it look like a zoetrope but this has very little wow factor after the opening credits. The visuals Gondry is known for may be all here but what is lacking is a decent endearing human story. I understand that Gondry's films are not always meant to be realistic or believable, but the simple idea here is quite ridiculous and was hard for me to get past as a viewer.
Danny Glover plays Mr. Fletcher, the shop owner who employs Mike (Mos Def). When he leaves the store with Mike in charge, all havoc is wreaked. Jerry (Jack Black), through an unfortunate accident involving electrocution, manages to inadvertently demagnetize all the video tapes in the store. Mike, to avoid being caught with his friend wrecking the tapes, "remakes" the movies with a home video camera. And folks, I don't mean videoing the originals to pirate them, I mean remaking them with their own actors and costumes. At this point I found myself pleading, "When is Nacho going to show up?"
Or his equivalent. Never, unfortunately. Jack Black has obviously reached a monetary level where he can do poorly written films like this as pet projects for what he sees as "art's" sake. I missed the art somehow.
Cleverness and timing are what make Jack Black great. In this movie, there is nothing clever apart from the making of the "Sweded" videos. A movie where Jack Black simply makes homemade remakes would be quite funny, but in this context it is decidedly not. My friend told me I was too hard on the movie so I put that in as a caveat. I have a feeling a lot more people will see this movie the way I have. But for those like my friend who are not as critical of plots as I am — again, I will note clearly that I am not a Michel Gondry fan, so take that into consideration when you decide to pass or pay on this movie.
From the shop owner to Mike to Jerry, the characters are only as likeable as you relate to them and my subconscious kept telling me they could never exist (possibly suspending disbelief is part of the allure of Gondry films?)
I went and saw this movie knowing it would be funny. I won't be so sure with Jack Black's next venture. Notwithstanding, Nacho Libre was so funny that I will still hold out strong belief, and hope.
My Final Word: Unbelievable plot and characters, odd and quirky, but may appeal to die-hard Michel Gondry fans.