Be Kind Rewind


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

A superficial summary of the plot of Be Kind, Rewind would lead to the conclusion that it's a silly idea for a comedy. Maybe too silly. Jack Black and Mos Def play two half-wits who have dead-end jobs in a decaying section of Passaic, New Jersey. Black works and sleeps in a junk yard next to an power station. Mos works in a video store run by a kindly old man who seems unaware of the existence of DVD. Through a concatenation of off-the-wall contrivances, Black becomes magnetized by the nearby electrical transformers, and his powerful charge erases all the video tapes.

This situation is even worse than it might be because the video store owner is out of town temporarily, and Mos has been left in charge for the first time in his life, with only one instruction: to keep Jack Black out of the store. By failing to heed that advice, he has destroyed the entire business. Mos and Black initially think they have time to replace the inventory, but their crisis is elevated to red alert when the store's best customer, a dotty old lady who is as unaware of DVD as the store owner and who talks to the owner every night on the phone, wants to rent Ghostbusters. The lads know that the old gal is as nutty as a squirrel resort so they decide to re-create Ghostbusters themselves, figuring that she'll never know the difference.

To make a long story short, the boys continue to make home-made versions of classic movies, and the neighborhood takes to them. Eventually the guys elevate the home-made aesthetic to the next level by offering to incorporate the purchasers into the films they are about to rent. For twenty bucks they can not only rent The Godfather, they can be in it!

That's enough for a movie right there, because the premise gives the director a chance to reveal some of the tricks involved in low-budget filmmaking, and also gives him a chance to comment on what is right or wrong about the films being "sweded," as our heroes call the process.

The film has more than that in mind. Running concurrent with that story is a plot about gentrification. The city of Passaic wants to tear down the video store's block and replace everything with some generic-looking yuppie project. The only way to avoid the wrecking ball is to bring the building up to code, which would require an ungodly amount of money ... but in "sweding," our lads have stumbled upon a money-making scheme so lucrative that they might just be able to do it!

Given that the author of the script is the supremely eccentric Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), there's even more going on. The video store is supposedly the birthplace of jazz great Fats Waller. That turns out to be a romance concocted by the store's owner, but his fantasy becomes the community's greatest asset when the MPAA cracks down on the boys' "sweding" of Hollywood movies because it is copyright infringement. The boys eventually figure out that they can still make original movies even if their replicas are illegal, so they create a Fats biography, based on the assumption that he really was born in the video store. While they are at it, they make up everything else as well. (I'll bet you didn't know that Fats was the youngest of seven children, and the only one to survive an attack by ninjas.) They incorporate the entire neighborhood into the movie.

Do they save the day? Who knows? Who cares? It's not a film that takes place in the real world, but in Michel Gondry's alternate (and better) reality. It ends up being a movie about the joy of community, about all the things that made you love films in the first place and made many of you want to create your own. It's inventive, imaginative, sentimental, and more than a little bit crazy. It's the Cinema Paradiso that Giuseppe Tornatore would have made if he had grown up in a Salvador Dali painting rather than in a real small town in Italy.

The film misfires now and then, but even that works because it's perfectly consistent with the overall tone. Remember how Johnny Carson was even funnier with bad jokes than with his best zingers? Same thing happens here. The film can be stupid, but stupid in a good way, like Will Ferrell reaching for a high-concept joke that doesn't quite work, but inspires admiration for what he was trying to do.

When it comes to imagination, Michel Gondry is a flat-out genius. Unlike many of the other great filmmakers, he has a big heart and a great sense of lowbrow humor, as if he were a bizarre DNA re-mix of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Giuseppe Tornatore and The Farrelly Brothers.

I love this movie.

I went to see Be Kind with my daughter and niece, who liked it as much as I did. It was quite packed for a 5 PM showing, and the audience had quite an unusual reaction at the end. Everyone sat in stunned silence, watching the credits. I read the IMDb board for this film and found out that this is a phenomenon which has happened everywhere.  


* Not yet available.







2.5 James Berardinelli (of 4 stars)
2.5 Roger Ebert (of 4 stars)
3 BBC  (of 5 stars)
69 Rotten Tomatoes  (% positive)
52 (of 100)




8.0 IMDB summary (of 10)
B Yahoo Movies





Box Office Mojo. (Opened in about 800 theaters, kind of an extended arthouse run.)





  • None. Not even close.





Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


I wish I could say that it will be a mammoth box office success, because it deserves to be. I'd love to see that happen, but I think the film is too weird for most people.