Hot off the success of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a film unanimously celebrated amongst audiences young and old, Michel Gondry returns to the screen with the oddly different Be Kind Rewind, a film about the joys of small time life in Passaic, New Jersey. This follow-up film, nevertheless, cannot compare to Gondry’s earlier work, as the film lacks that sense of greatness that emanated from Eternal Sunshine. Why Gondry settles for such mediocrity in Be Kind Rewind, in both setting and scope, I will never know.
The premise of Be Kind Rewind follows two friends, Jerry and Mike (played by Jack Black and Mos Def) as they find themselves alone forced to re-shoot hundreds of films recorded on VHS tapes in order to save their aging video store from being shut down.
From their laughably-bad remakes of such classics as Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and The Lion King, the film sets itself up with an incredible premise that occasionally works, yet ultimately fails because of very uneven execution. Though at times undoubtedly hilarious (it is Jack Black, after all), I couldn’t help but feel as if Gondry had forgotten which audience he was really trying to please-the one portraying an audience for Jerry and Mike’s movies, or the one watching Be Kind Rewind in actuality.
Moreover, certain parts of the film (by no real fault of its own) were automatically met with my criticism, no matter how great of a movie it could have been. Being a resident of New Jersey outside of my own Colgate life, I instantly cringed at the sight of Passaic, New Jersey as presented on the screen. The place was, for lack of a better word, a total dump. I hence realized that my poor home state would soon enough become the butt of even more impressively-unfunny New Jersey jokes.
But it wasn’t just the town that made me cringe-the characters themselves seemed to lack any sense of human intelligence as well. Each film the characters remake is so laughably bad that it made the plot of the actual movie unintelligible as well. After all, if Jerry and Mike are so passionate about saving their video store, why then do they show almost no effort in making their remakes into decent ones at the very least? And how exactly could the town possibly meet such lackluster filmmaking attempts with such praise? Once again, I couldn’t bear but think of the jokes about New Jersey that would surface after Be Kind Rewind becomes a part of the past, as my poor state was presented on the screen as a population of airheads.
Now, I understand that this was, in some sense, the point of the film: to paint a picture of small town life that celebrates the act of filmmaking, even in all of its simplicity. Furthermore, I to some extent really did enjoy the movie, and I am to some extent happy that I went. The characters were loveable, even in all of their stupidity.
But maybe it’s the inner-New Jersey spirit in me, or maybe it’s my love for movies that attempt to be bold, but I just cannot bring myself to give Be Kind Rewind a thumbs up. For all of its good, and all of its bad, Be Kind Rewind deserves a hesitant thumbs down.