Casting Jack Black as a loveable loser for Michel Gondry's latest peculiar cinematic exercise Be Kind Rewind had to look on paper like a good fit.
Black, not so successful since King Kong, stars opposite Mos Def (The Italian Job) in this wacky comedy that seems more hip than it really is. It really feels more like a documentary, and in that respect the auteur shined much better in Dave Chappelle's Block Party.
The setting is Passaic, NJ with Def's Mike a reliable employee of a quaint, though hardly profiting video emporium. That's why the owner (Danny Glover) is away.
More of an immediate problem for Mike is the presence of Black's uptight, edgy Jerry. Apparently, after spending time at a nearby power plant, Jerry is magnetic. At least enough to turn all the rentals into blanks.
Mia Farrow's customer is looking for "Ghostbusters", so a desperate Mike and Jerry turn to "sweding" (their version of the film). Be Kind Rewind has fun with this recreating/refilming, even as copyright issues ensue. The most amusement comes from rendering cinema from 2001 and Driving Miss Daisy to Boyz In The Hood, among others from lore.
Gondry ably invites one into his colorful music video background, but his scripting drags behind the outrageous, undigitized chaotic, cut-out imagery. Many might look at the filmmaking as experimental and too amateurish. It might have some consider the title of his last creative, but uninvolving endeavor The Science of Sleep.
This visual trappings only go so far, as the characters, unhappily, fall to the nutty level on screen. The bulk of Be Kind Rewind tries to layer repetition and incoherence with a conscientious imagination, as the first and last reels perhaps are most watchable. Black and Def are a tenaciously formidable, if inane duo, but even they probably realized "let's save the shop" couldn't save the movie.