STUDIO: New Line Home Video
MSRP: $5.97
RUNNING TIME: 102-minutes

  • Trailers
  • Behind the scenes featurette

The Pitch

In an effort to revive a struggling community, Mos Def and Jack Black slap together low-rent adaptations of classic films. Take note, Obama.

The Humans

Mos Def stars as local auteur and video store clerk Mike; Jack Black as the Hardy to Def’s Laurel in the role of Jerry; Danny Glover and Mia Farrow add some award-show legitimacy to the picture as video store owner and patron Mr. Fletcher and Mrs. Falewicz; and the down on its luck town of Passaic as the down on its luck town of Passaic.

The Nutshell

Michel Gondry once again plays with the memories of his audience, touching on a community’s shared history and the thin-line between folklore and fact. His love-letter to the cinema is creative, funny, and inspiring, with all the gooey sentimentality of a Frank Capra picture.

Mike films a crucial scene from The Rescuers Down Under.

The Lowdown

Despite our pathetic efforts to shut our fellow patrons up and head to theaters at 9 am on a Sunday, the movies are a group activity. Unlike, say, writing novel or dub step, film is a collective medium, one that is both made and consumed by a number of people. Sure, any director can throw on a beret, some puffy director’s pants, and scream into a bullhorn, but their work, no matter how much they strive for authorship, changes depending on the craftsman building their sets, the actors reading their lines, and the grips managing their electricity. Likewise, even the most stubborn filmmaker cannot escape interpretation, which shifts from viewer to viewer, even though droves of them consume the same piece of art under the same conditions at the same time.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder that film’s about filmmaking are generally selfish affairs, depicting for the wonderful, horrible job of director. Watch in awe as the filmmaker pleads with their crew, their producers, and their audience to understand their vision for a chance at cinematic immortality and the chance to be considered an artist. There’s not much room for the audience at the end of Fellini’s 8 1/2 or Bowfinger’s Chubby Rain.

"Think. Think. I know! We'll have a bake-sale to save th--Wait, no."

However, for the audience, the filmmaker’s torment holds little weight. It’s why many fans of Bananas didn’t care for Stardust Memories. Afterall, the masses just want entertainment–hence, all those Airbud movies. Michel Gondy gets this and makes his, or our, movie accordingly. Set in a rundown neighborhood in Passaic, NJ, Be Kind Rewind brings a community together through the collective creation of a movie and the importance of their history in art. It’s not just about the making of a film, or in this case many films, but rather how the audience remembers the film and how that memory affects them.

Perfectly set in a video store run out of a tenement building, Be Kind Rewind follows two unlikely filmmakers as they set out to recreate their recently damaged stock of VHS tapes. One, a naive daydreamer, Mike, and the other, a paranoid conspiracy theorist, Jerry, the two find themselves in charge of Be Kind Rewind video after their boss, Mr. Fletcher leaves town. However, after becoming magnetized, as he is wont to do, Jerry fries the tapes, leaving the store with nothing but a freezer full of Popsicles. So when customers come in demanding their Ghostbusters and their Rush Hour 2s, Mike has the bright idea to recreate the movies using a cheap camcorder and the locals.

On the set of RobertCop 3.

Obviously, the film’s major draw is Jack Black and Mos Def’s recreation of Boys in the Hood, but there’s more to this one than cheap-o parodies. Director Michel Gondry’s cardboard innovations play perfectly with guerilla filmmaking obsession. Mike’s various special effects delivers an early film vibe, mixing amateur inventiveness and downright genius that seemed to only exist in silent films. These shoestring versions Gondry’s of interests, influences, and inspirations cut to the core of the films, making them, in many ways, superior to their source material.

In the past fifteen years or so, Gondry has proven to be far from a perfect director, and Be Kind Rewind is far from a perfect film. The flimsy premise sets up a suspension of disbelief that if you’re not willing to deal with–and many probably are not–make the movie a slow, grating mess. But even the most cynical movie fans should find the director’s sense of community inspiring. He turns an act, like movie making, generally regarded as a solitary one, into one that invokes a togetherness. Passaic unites over Mike and Jerry’s shoddy productions. By the film’s end, the entire city joins in the madness, celebrating the town’s history, true or false, with glee and respect for each other and their home.

For those that find the effects and optimism of 30s and 40s cinema enjoyable, Be Kind Rewind should feel part-throwback, part-original, hitting the sweet spot in a less abrasive way than Quentin Tarantino. It’s a film that celebrates the movies’ place in our culture and how it builds community one frame at a time.

They don't make 'em like they used to: Out of cardboard and such.


The Package

Be Kind Rewind respects the VHS so much that it slights its own DVD release. Its got the movie on there, but the lack of full sweded versions of some of the movies is a huge misstep. There should be a whole separate disk for those.

Also included, a look at the production from the perspective of Passaic locals who not only appeared in the film, but also live in the town. This certainly helped to smooth out some of the film’s ideas, as well as make them a bit more real. Be Kind Rewind‘s presence in the city shows such a similarity to the film’s ending, one could make a case for is being based on a true story. However, a movie about a movie production and how the town housing the production imitates the film their making is an exercise in post-modernism best left to people like Gondry.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars