Be Kind Rewind, directed by Michael Gondry, is a sad attempt at a sentimental comedy. As if Nacho Libre wasn't bad enough, Rewind star Jack Black's movies seem to be falling even further than thought possible.
Be Kind Rewind is a mediocre sub-commentary on the plight of small town or family-owned business operations. It unrealistically makes the point that perhaps small businesses may lack the ability to bring in the bucks, but they're run by friendly people, so they deserve to stay afloat. Not to mention, small businesses have more soul and personality than the heartless bureaucrats determined to drive them into the ground. Unfortunately, in the real world, this is rarely how it happens.
The film centers on a hole-in-the-wall VHS rental shop in Passaic, N.J. When a development agency threatens to tear down the building because of code violations, the owner, played by Danny Glover, goes off to investigate more efficient (i.e. mainstream) business practices. Meanwhile, he leaves Mike (Mos Def) in charge of the business with only one order - don't let in the local screw-up (Black's character, Jerry, obviously).
Through a whole mess of impossible incidents that would only ever happen in a corny movie from the early '90s, Jerry's character becomes magnetized, erases all the movies in the rental shop, and Mike and Jerry are left trying to do cheap remakes, or "sweded" versions of films, to please the locals. If you're wondering, the urban dictionary defines "sweding" as "re-making something from scratch using whatever you can get your hands on."
Eventually, the whole town becomes involved in the appropriations and the film fast forwards to a predictable ending - Jerry becomes demagnetized (he pees it out) and the building is somehow saved from the evil naysayers.
Although clunky and impractical, most everyone can understand the feeling of nostalgic fondness attributed to the VHS tape. This is the sort of feeling Be Kind Rewind seeks to imitate. Unfortunately, it fails miserably while maintaining all that clunk and impracticability of a videocassette.
The only mildly amusing moments happen while they're sweding films. They even get so creative as to use a pizza as the aftermath of someone being shot. I suppose you may have to see the movie to fully understand the idea - but I would strongly recommend against that.
Gondry is given credit as a writer, but it seems more likely that they made up the movie as they were filming. The scripting reads sloppily and improvisational, like bad free jazz. Unfortunately this film is mediocre at best. And to think, it had so much potential.
In the end, I was left scratching my head wondering, how could this possibly be written and directed by the same guy that churned out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? Then again, I can't even remember if I liked that movie.