The good old video home system really changed the world of home entertainment. People bought the films they loved for a one-time charge, and they watched them whenever and wherever they wanted, over and over again. Although you don’t see much of the VHS anymore in today’s world, it still plays a big role in Michel Gondry’s good-hearted comedy Be Kind Rewind, a charming little movie about how amateur filmmaking can bring people together to achieve great things. This is definitely not your typical Gondry flick, but it’s easily to understand and probably more accessible to a larger audience than his previous work. And… action!
Set in the little town of Passaic, New Jersey, the film introduces us to Mike (Mos Def), who works at a VHS-only video store run by Elroy Fletcher (Danny Glover). Hanging around the shop every day is Mike’s eccentric pal Jerry (Jack Black), who works and lives in a nearby garage and is convinced the local power plant is frying people’s brains. In a perilous attempt to sabotage the plant, Jerry ends up being magnetized, which causes him to unintentionally erase all of the tapes in the store. With Mr. Fletcher gone for the week to spy on a rival store that has made the switch to DVD, Mike and Jerry have just one hope to fulfill their customers’ requests and save the business from foreclosure: grab an old video camera and reshoot all the films themselves, hoping no one will notice the difference.
Although the story of Be Kind Rewind is implausible and often quite silly, the film still manages to deliver the goods. It’s undoubtedly a less challenging experience than Gondry’s previous flicks, but it succeeds beautifully in creating a comfortable atmosphere that will appeal to those looking for a simple feel-good movie with a lot of heart and soul. In other words, viewers who go with the flow of the plot will likely have a darn good time. What I really like about the film is the way it depicts how the art of filmmaking can enlighten people’s lives. In what is clearly a tribute to the VHS and the power of movies, Gondry has created a clever fable about two eccentric and the importance of community. In real life you would obviously never (or almost never) find such a strong cooperation between people living in the same neighborhood, but Be Kind Rewind is not supposed to reflect reality.
Gondry stuffed this project with an enormous amount of creativity, most of which comes to light in Mike and Jerry’s movies. It’s a great pleasure to watch the two friends remake pretty much everything they have in stock. Reshooting anything from Ghostbusters to The Lion King or Driving Miss Daisy, the two come up with the craziest ideas to make their work look as authentic as possible. Most of these short sequences are also incredibly entertaining and hilarious, which keeps the plot operating at a fast pace throughout. Like most of Gondry’s films, Be Kind Rewind also has a bizarre feeling to it, but I think that’s just what distinguishes it from other films in the same genre. Some parts in the script are predictable, but the plot boasts enough innovation to keep viewers engaged from start to finish.
Although both of them speak way more than they should, Jack Black and Mos Def make a great onscreen team. They’re both incredibly zany, and they both carry the film on their shoulders, providing audiences with plenty of laughs. I can’t imagine anyone not taking pleasure in watching them work out their creative differences. Rounding out the ensemble are Melonie Diaz, Danny Glover and Mia Farrow, who all deliver enjoyable performances.
Sure, Be Kind Rewind is mostly silly and at times even a little too cheesy, but the laughs keep coming at a steady pace. The fun works best if you’ve seen all the movies Mike and Jerry set out to remake, but I’m convinced you’ll have a delicious time watching this comedy even if you’re not a film buff. We all remember the good times of the VHS, right? Most studios stopped releasing new films in VHS format in 2006, but if I ever had Be Kind Rewind on tape, I would gladly rewind it to watch it over and over again. Cut!
The 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer on this Blu-ray edition looks stunning, and the quality of the picture in high definition is consistently sharp. Mike and Jerry’s films obviously look grainier and less clean and because they use an older camera, but it’s no big deal at all. In fact, it’s an essential part of the film you’re more than willing to accept. The film also comes with a 7.1 DTS master audio, which delivers an incredibly stunning sound throughout. Dialogue, music and sound effects are well balanced, transforming your living room into a real home theater if you use an adequate sound system. Technically, New Line’s release of Be Kind Rewind hits all the right notes.
I have mixed feelings however about the quality of the bonus material. The special features kick off with “Passaic, New Jersey,” a 10-minute portrait of the city the film is set in. While this featurette doesn’t reveal that much about the history of the town, it features plenty of interviews with local inhabitants and members of the cast and crew. Jack Black, for instance, talks about how funny it is that nearly every police officer in Passaic wanted to take a picture with him. Funny indeed, but not very enlightening. On the DVD it says the extras also includes a “Complete Fats Waller Biopic,” but that’s not really the case. Instead of offering viewers useful information about the musician whose name is often mentioned in the feature film, this six-minute piece just features Mos Def singing some jazz songs.
On a more positive note, the disc also includes an awesome 33-minute behind-the-scenes look, which is stuffed with informative interviews and plenty of compelling footage from the set. Gondry also talks about where his ideas for the project came from and how and why he decided to use people from Passaic to appear in the film. Besides a short but thoroughly entertaining conversation between Black and Gondry, the special features also include “Fats Waller was Here,” the entire version of an 11-minute short film the characters work on during the main feature. This one definitely comes closer to a biopic, and it’s a lot funnier too. All in all, despite some weaker extras in the bonus section, Be Kind Rewind on Blu-ray is definitely worth the investment.