When the reel started to roll, I thought I had walked into the wrong movie.
Be Kind Rewind begins with a short history of jazz in Harlem, leading up to the story of local legend Fats Waller. Finally, when you see Jack Black, Mos Def and Danny Glover are relating the story, you know you are in the right place.
Music-video-artist-turned-feature-filmmaker Michel Gondry has finally given audiences a follow-up to the very original and widely successful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Be Kind Rewind is similarly unique and as imaginatively humorous.
Mike (Def) and Jerry (Black) are childhood friends, having grown up in the low-rent neighbourhood of Passaic, New Jersey. Mike works at and lives above the neighbourhood video store with Mr. Fletcher (Glover). Unfortunately, business is slow and a development corporation is going to takeover the building complex and tear it down.
When Mr. Fletcher leaves Mike in charge while he attends a memorial for Waller, his only instruction to Mike is "Keep Jerry Out." Mike fails to follow the rules and every videotape in the store is mysteriously erased. To keep Mr. Fletcher from discovering the disaster, the boys offer hilarious remakes of all the films they carry. To justify the additional cost and longer wait periods, Jerry suggests the films are imported from Sweden and, therefore, "Sweded." The term, coined by Gondry, is actually defined as “the practice of re-creating something from scratch using commonly available, everyday materials and technology.”
The first act of the film is somewhat bland and some scenes may leave you wondering if Mike is a little slow. But Academy Award winning writer/director Gondry's innovative genius really shines through once Mike and Jerry begin filming. The techniques utilized to recreate certain scenes are amusingly inventive, such as a toy cars' road mat below the characters to imply great distance from ground level. Films that are Sweded include Ghostbusters (with Jerry's version of the theme music), Rush Hour 2, The Lion King, Robocop, Driving Miss Daisy, and Boyz n the Hood; with the help of the neighbourhood, they also create a period piece chronicling the life of Fats Waller.
Underneath it all, Be Kind Rewind is an exploration of the movie watching experience. The Sweded films are not meant to be exact recreations; we tend not to remember scenes exactly as they were. So instead, they capture the movie moments and feelings as they remember it – hence, a 90-minute film can be summed up in 20 minutes or less.
This film is not likely to become as popular or acclaimed as Eternal Sunshine but it is still a very clever and enjoyable comedy.