Director: Michel Gondry
If you’ve ever walked out of a theatre thinking of ways you would have improved the film you’d just seen and wished even fleetingly to have had the chance to make the movie yourself, then writer/director Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind is for you.
When Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) goes out of town, he leaves his local community video store (yes, VHS) in the hands of employee Mike (Mos Def) with explicit instructions to keep his ne’er do well, paranoid pal Jerry out of the store. After a failed attempt to sabotage the power plant on the junkyard property where he lives leaves Jerry (Jack Black) magnetized, he accidentally erases all of the VHS tapes just by his proximity to the videos when visiting his best friend Mike. Not wanting to get in trouble with Mr. Fletcher or his favorite renter Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow), the men concoct an unusual scheme to recreate the tapes by making twenty minute versions of the films available in the store and, while they’re at it, improve the movies by changing dialogue and getting rid of the useless padding. While their first project, a new version of Ghostbusters, was filmed out of desperation to buy the men time, soon they become an overnight sensation and the newest local heroes as their work improves greatly when they take on a third partner in the form of brainy, beautiful and bold Alma (Raising Victor Vargas’ Melonie Diaz).
The trio decide to give their process a name-- “Sweded”-- which they’re hoping makes them sound even more exotic and soon they rake in enough cash to help Mr. Fletcher save his store from greedy industrialists hoping to tear down the nearly obsolete VHS store in order to build yuppie condos (as if the world wants or needs more of those). However, Jerry, Mike and Alma quickly realize that just because they’ve deleted the FBI warning that plays at the beginning of each tape, it doesn’t mean they can infringe on the copyrighted works and their hobby becomes far riskier when they’re paid a visit by the law. Gondry, whose brilliant Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was one of the best films of 2004, faltered a bit with his uneven and far too experimental Science of Sleep but he’s back with a creative vengeance in this sweet film that, despite a long, dull, somewhat ugly and crude beginning, will strike a chord with film buffs as it begins to become a celebration of the universal medium of film and the way it brings everyone together. Although some critics disliked the overly sentimental ending, I thought that Gondry’s movie worked well and was far more understated than the enjoyable but over-the-top ode to movies of Darabont’s The Majestic and while not in the same class, it also echoed a few of the scenes and themes of movies such as Cinema Paradiso and Sullivan’s Travels. All in all, a remarkable achievement for a film that wasn’t even “Sweded.”