With technology so readily accessible these days, it is easier than ever to make your own home movies or reinterpret scenes from your favorites. “Be Kind Rewind” takes this DIY view of moviemaking and adapts it into a feature-length film aimed at the YouTube generation.
After a nasty run-in with a power plant, Jerry (Jack Black) becomes magnetized and erases all the VHS tapes at his best friend Mike’s (Mos Def) video store. Scrambling to solve the dilemma before their boss (Danny Glover) returns from a business trip, the duo are forced to create their own versions of Hollywood films to stay afloat. These adaptations unexpectedly become a smash hit with the community, and their little operation grows to be quite popular. Nonetheless, their ingenuity is soon faced with a new set of problems — copyright infringements and the impending demolition of the store.
The film stems from the insanely creative mind of writer-director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”). While it is probably his most mainstream-friendly work to date, it fails to reach the lofty proportions his previous film established. On the one hand, the spoof sequences show off his panache for the quirky and the surreal, but the remainder is often too broadly focused and simple-minded.
Part of this results from the way he relies on the actors to carry the proceedings. Instead of pushing deeper, which resulted in the most heartfelt performance of Jim Carrey’s career in “Eternal Sunshine,” Gondry is content to let the two have at it with their improvisations. Black and Def never stray far from their typical roles — Black is over-the-top zany while straight-man Def tries to be the rational and responsible one. For fans of the actors, this works more often than not throughout the movie, but for those already wary of the two, it likely won’t win them over.
Things also stray downhill during the third act when the film starts to veer off into Frank Capra territory. Relying a little too heavily on a subplot involving local jazz pianist Fats Waller, it never comes together to cohesively gel. A more consistent tone, and, frankly, a better subplot altogether, would have helped the ending from being borderline cheesy.
Despite its shortcomings, “Be Kind Rewind” is a fun and lighthearted frolic. The re-enacted scenes, particularly of “Ghostbusters” and “Driving Miss Daisy,” are easily the highlights, and as a whole, the film delivers a fair amount of laughs. However, this doesn’t prohibit the story from feeling slightly shortsighted and underdeveloped, and it seems like the inherent comic gold of the original idea was never fully mined.