Don’t get me wrong though. The characters in the movie have a spontaneity and vibe that hold your attention despite the fact that the scenes drag and the story can’t seem to manage an ending. Fear not, it eventually does find its finale, but along the way you’re never allowed to forget that the movie is taking its cues from an aspiring actor/country singer, pseudo-repressed homosexual, Samoan bodyguard played by The Rock. Oddly enough, that’s why the movie works as well as it does.
Sorry, did that last paragraph seem to start out of nowhere? Well, that’s pretty much how Be Cool kicks things off too. For those who may not realize it, Be Cool is a sequel (in the loosest sense of the word) to the movie Get Shorty. I know, it’s easy to miss that when the show doesn’t bear the traditional Hollywood moniker of Get Shorty 2, nevertheless it is the highly entertaining continuation of suave-man mobster Chili Palmer’s west coast adventures in the entertainment industry.
When I say the movie is a sequel in the loosest sense of the word, it’s one of the greatest compliments I can bestow. There are no ridiculously rehashed characters or lame attempts to stretch out the previous film’s plot. No, Be Cool starts fresh with Chili finding himself in the middle of a five way battle between three oddball music production companies, a miniature Russian mafia, and the newest, hottest, undiscovered pop-diva in town. It’s a self-deprecatingly witty and amusingly clever dance that hardly stops to take a breath from start to finish.
Forgive me if that’s all I relate of the movie’s plot and instead focus on the actors and characters; they are the real masterpiece of the film. John Travolta reprises the role of Chili Palmer, a sort of laid back, vigilante mobster version of James Bond with a gift for words and heart of gold. The entire purpose of the movie is to create crazy, high tension and high stakes situations just to see how Chili manages to get out of them without once losing his cool. Travolta was born to play the role and obviously relishes every second of it.
Chili may be the cake, but the rest of the cast is a mile high layer of icing that creates a perfectly off the wall ensemble, inhabiting the world into which the unflappable Palmer is dropped. Cedric the Entertainer is in rare form as a sort of lovable bad guy, an ivy league educated rap mogul who rolls with an oafish group of gangsta rappers for body guards. You just can’t go wrong with a villain who would just as soon beat a person with a spatula as shoot them to get what he wants. The lovely Christina Milian gives a breakout performance as the talented performer Chili is determined to see succeed. Milian’s progression from a sweet but struggling singer to stunning starlet gives the movie its only memorable arc and is the real reason you’ll root to see Palmer succeed.
Top marks go to The Rock who roles with the biggest tongue-in-cheek punches of the film. It takes a lot of guts for a guy to go from playing heroic muscle men to the aforementioned body-guard turned performer Samoan homosexual. The Rock dives in head first, poking fun at his own efforts of going from wrestler to movie star. His scenes with funny man Vince Vaughn make for the movies most entertaining moments.
Be Cool feels like the kind of movie you would make with your best friends in high school on a weekend with your father’s video camera, only with a really big budget and Steve Tyler. It boils down to a bunch of actors having an outlandishly fun time playing off each other as absurd characters for the better part of two hours. Sadly, that’s the movie’s one major flaw: most of the time it feels like the actors are having more fun than you. Director F. Gary Gray lets his cast run amuck on a very long leash and the results are hilarious. Still, the movie feels like an actors-only party and we, the audience, are just lucky to be along for the ride.
The show proves that there’s an immortal quality to Chili Palmer that could lend itself to more movies, as long as Travolta is willing to fill in that signature black suit. If they continue in the tradition of Be Cool, refusing to take themselves too seriously, you won’t hear many complaints from me. As a sworn hater of sequels, that’s saying something.
The cast party doesn’t end with the credits. The actor/director/crew fun fest continues unabated on the various menus of the Be Cool special features sections. A few laughs and lot of forgettable content awaits. Unless you feel an uncontrollable urge to be convinced of how good a time the cast had or just how serious they were about playing such silly roles, there’s not a lot on the disc that can be considered must-see DVD.
For once I’m actually glad to see that there are no commentaries by director or cast. Frankly, with a movie this self-deprecating it would be redundant. The folks in the film have plenty of time to tell you about their characters and how much fun they had in the making-of documentary “Be Cool, Reel Cool”. It’s good for a few laughs, isn’t too self-complimentary, and is the only bonus item generally worth watching.
The several minutes’ worth of deleted scenes is one long parade of cameo after cameo that didn’t make the final cut. Celebrities ranging from former Lakers coach Phil Jackson to Patti LaBelle and Anna Nicole Smith to Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst pop up with speaking parts you never knew they had. Oh, and before you get as annoyed as I did at having to play each clip individually, some dummy put the “Play All” option at the end of the two page list of deleted scenes instead of the beginning. Go figure.
The gag reel is not as funny as I had hoped it would be. There are a handful of cute slip-ups that garner some small chuckles, but most of the time its just random shots of cast members doing silly little dances while they wait for the camera to roll.
If you want the pop-tart version of the cast bios, the DVD serves them up in an interesting format called “Close-ups”. Each two to four minute bio-short puts a particular actor in the spotlight. You have your choice of Travolta/Thurman (it’s all about how it was great to get to dance together again after all these years), Andre 3000 (“I hate my baggy costumes”, complains the fashion bug), Cedric the Entertainer (he loved his role…yay), Christina Milian (she took piano lessons for the movie) and The Rock (watch this one, skip the rest).
To top off the significant bonus features you have the full blown version of the hilariously cheesy, intentionally bad country music video featuring The Rock’s character Elliot Wilhelm. Director F. Gary Gray got his start directing music videos so he knows exactly what makes the bad ones terrible. You can tell he had a lot of fun making what is arguably the worst music video ever. It’s perfect, it’s funny, it features The Rock singing a female country song and you get to watch it in all its horrific glory.
Tack on the original trailer and you’ve got a respectably well rounded package full of mostly uninteresting stuff. Too bad, too. With as much fun as it looks like the cast had off camera, it would have been cool to have been in on a little more of it.