March 23, 2008 -- “Be Kind Rewind” is an odd little fictional movie about some very unusual independent filmmakers in Passaic, New Jersey who become neighborhood legends. Writer-director Michael Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) has enormous affection for the film's main characters, who run an anachronistic video store in a run down neighborhood. There are multiple mini-movies within this film. The heroes of the film are amateur filmmakers and actors who make low-rent copies of well-known Hollywood films. These cheaply-made films become more popular than the original films on which they are based. The villains are Hollywood attorneys protecting the kind of industrialized filmmaking that this movie ridicules. None of this is believable. It is a fable. You just have to go with it.
Mos Def of “16 Blocks” stars as Mike, employee of a video rental store in an old condemned building. His friend, Jerry (Jack Black of “School of Rock”) becomes magnetized during an attempt to sabotage a power substation and accidentally ruins all the video tapes in the store (the store carries no DVDs, making it anachronistic). Desperate to come up with movies for the customers while Mike's boss, Elroy Fletcher (Danny Glover of “Shooter”) is away on a trip, Mike comes up with the mad scheme of making his own movies to replace the originals. Mike handles the video camera and Jerry does the acting. Surprisingly, the cheaply-made videos become more popular than the original films and the video rental business becomes very successful. The business had been a money-loser, but suddenly it is making money. Mike and Jerry enlist the help of others, including Alma (Melonie Diaz) to remake more films. After a time more people from the neighborhood become involved with the scheme, including the store's owner, Elroy Fletcher, who is trying to raise enough money to keep the condemned store building from being demolished.
The homemade films become known as “Sweded” versions of popular films. These filmmakers could produce a Sweded movie overnight, so a customer could ask for a Sweded film one day and rent it the next day. Eventually, Hollywood lawyers caught wind of the scheme and obtain a court order to stop the practice. A new film, an original one, was needed in order to quickly raise enough money to save the video store. The whole community pitches in to act in the new film as well as to write and edit it, but will the film be done in time and will it raise enough money to save the building?
This is a fairly lightweight movie. It's central message is that filmmakers are pretty wonderful people, which is pretty much what you would expect filmmakers to say. It's anti-Hollywood message is pretty straightforward too, as well as its bias in favor of independent films. All of this seems pretty self-serving. It is low on dramatic impact. The film's ending is weak. The acting is generally pretty good and there are some good laughs along the way, but it doesn't really go anywhere. This film rates a C+.
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