Be Kind Rewind
The World Can Be Fun and Affirming, Too

Sometimes banal is good. Without movies like Be Kind Rewind, we would all be constantly exhausted trying to figure out the deeper meanings of movies like Atonement and There Will Be Blood. We would all be driven nuts by the constant rain of the horror present in our world—as in No Country for Old Men—and would gladly quit seeing movies altogether if the only thing we were reminded of was the gross immorality of our political, social, and religious systems. Yes… Be Kind Rewind has its place, and is the kind of movie that is a welcome respite on days when the insanity of the world gets to be too much and we need a place to hide for a time.

Be Kind Rewind is the story of the people in a rundown neighborhood of Passaic, New Jersey, whose main claim to fame is that a once-famous bluesman was born in the corner video store owned by Mr. Fletcher. Mr. Fletcher’s business is a victim of the nefarious DVD technology and is kept alive only by the loyal customers who don’t even know what a DVD player is and couldn’t afford one if they did.

Jack Black as Jerry in Be Kind Rewind

Mike is Mr. Fletcher’s loyal employee and friend of Jerry, who lives and works in the local junkyard just a jaywalk away from the video store. Jerry is a certifiable nutcase who has aluminum-foiled the inside of his camper and wears a colander to protect his mind from being read. Everybody just accepts that Jerry is crazy and loves or tolerates him for who he is… Until, inadvertently, Jerry becomes magnetized, walks into Mr. Fletcher’s store, and erases all the movie videos.

Mike, who has been left in charge while Mr. Fletcher goes on a spy mission to see how the DVD rental stores are flourishing, panics and wants to kill Jerry until Jerry comes up with the idea to recreate all the videos. The remainder of the movie follows the hilarious exploits of the duo’s filmmaking as they create 20-minute versions of movies such as Ghostbusters, Driving Miss Daisy, The Lion King, Robocop, When We Were Kings, and Back to the Future. Instead of becoming the laughingstock of the neighborhood, they become heroes and huge stars.

Okay, so the plot is ridiculous and could feasibly have been written by a 6-year-old in his sleep. The delight of a movie like Be Kind Rewind is found in the interacting of the ensemble cast and the development and delivery of individual characterizations.

Jack Black is at his best—and is a real joy to watch when he does what Jack Black does best—being wacky and unexpected. He is most hilarious when he acts like a truly funny adult and doesn’t succumb to middle-school hijinx, over-used potty humor, and ad nauseum repetitive use of certain swear words. Black’s character, Jerry, is truly gut-laughingly funny and when juxtaposed against Mos Def’s Mr. Goody Two Shoes, Mike, there is a team born that is reminiscent of some of the best Abbot and Costello. I would never have taken Mos Def for such a great straight man! Both Black and Def know how to “be” their characters. Director Michel Gondry might have had an easy job with this film. There is a sense that at times he just let the camera run and allowed his actors to just go with it.

Another thing that makes Be Kind Rewind so interesting is the eclectic nature of its cast. Who would have ever thought to put Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, and Mia Farrow in the same movie? Well, Gondry did; and to his credit they work together amazingly. (There is only one casting goof in the movie that must be noted. Melanie Diaz plays Alma, a girl from the local drycleaner who Jerry and Mike recruit for Robocop. Diaz plays Alma as very flat and two-dimensional, and any scene she speaks in brings the action to a screeching halt. Fortunately, she does not appear often enough to ruin the film.)

Be Kind Rewind also has a good moral base and is the tale of what happens when people care for each other, when a community comes together to fight a common enemy—in this case progress, which would destroy the flavor of a neighborhood that has existed for a long time and is not ready or willing to die. Everyone—whether white, black, purple, man, woman, child, whacko, or gang-banger—cares for the neighborhood and its people and all come together to fight outsiders who want to tear down the community and turn it into something new and different, something that they know they will not fit into or of which they will not be allowed to have a part.

This movie reminds us that the entire world has not gone to hell in a hand basket. We need a good reminder now and then that there are plenty of decent people in every neighborhood in every city throughout the country just trying to live good lives and be good neighbors—even a whacko like Jerry!

Be Kind Rewind is rated PG-13 for “some sexual references.” This seems quite fair. The only thing I heard or observed was some boy-talk early in the movie about testicles, and that flew by so quickly that it hardly blipped on my radar. While children under 13 would not be damaged by this movie, I think they would laugh only in response to the laughter of their parents or older siblings. Some of the Keystone Cops type of footage would entertain, but most of the movie moves too quickly for kids to grasp what is really going on. It definitely is safe to allow your older teens to attend without you.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Kathy attended a promotional screening of Be Kind Rewind.