Be Kind Rewind (2008) – Film Review

Mos Def and Jack Black find themselves re-making classic movies in order to quench their customers' thirst for VHS rentals in Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind

Left in charge of Elroy Fletcher (Danny Glover)’s $1 video rental store, things go slightly awry for Mike (Mos Def) when friend Jerry (Jack Black) unsuspectingly wipes the store’s video collection clean leaving behind nothing but blank tapes in Michel Gondry’s 2008 comedy.

Facing enforced relocation, Fletcher’s VHS rental store has to raise an almost unimaginable fee, prepare to face the age of the DVD or be demolished. It’s a well rehearsed storyline with hundreds of cinematic predecessors (the film most notably capturing the tone of eighties flick Batteries Not Included). Jack Black and Mos Def’s love/hate relationship, although a rather over-done cliché, works here and offers a structure for an otherwise fragile script. To appease their small customer base the two begin to re-film old favourites – keep your eyes peeled to see if you can work out which classics get the ‘sweded’ (that’s re-filmed-to-pass-as-the-original to you and me) treatment.

Audiences are asked to overlook the conveniences that allow for the twists that develop the storyline; just how Jerry survives extreme magnetisation is perhaps a little beyond scientific explanation. Although such story devices leave the premise of the film left standing on shaky ground, the inclusion of such silliness is reminiscent of eighties classics such as Ghostbusters – no one in the audience really believed that Slime was in any way real but enjoyed seeing Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd act as if he was. The silliness also allows the light parodies in the film to take a greater hold on the movie – it embraces all of the films that have influenced its creation whilst imitating the old-fashioned storylines that feature in the VHSs of yesteryear ultimately producing a film that is unobtrusive and inoffensive.

If you accept the film and all of its goofiness (overlooking the question who would, in their right mind, see re-shooting every single film in the store as a logical thing to do when faced with a barrage of angry customers wanting to watch their much-loved films) then you are left with a likeable film that promotes the importance of community spirit. When things go from bad to worse and legal action is taken (presented here by Sigourney Weaver who makes a welcome cameo) Mike, Jerry, Elroy and the inhabitants of their small neighbourhood band together to make a film that celebrates a supposed music legend Fats Waller who supposedly once lived in the store. The biographical movie they produce continues in the same vein as the sweded films and features inhabitants of Passaic where Be Kind Rewind was shot.

Differing from Gondry’s other works (notably including Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Be Kind Rewind is a simple fun film that can be enjoyed by anyone.

Best bit; Has to be the sweding of Ghostbusters.
Best line; Mike: ‘I’m Bill Murray, you’re everybody else’.
Best swede; The remaking of Ghostbusters provides the laughs but the inventiveness behind the brief glimpse of classics such as King Kong and Men in Black shouldn’t be missed.
Watch this if you liked; Underdog films such as Batteries Not Included and other harmless Jack Black comedies like School of Rock. Also good for films buffs as there are a lot of film references which are made funnier if you have a wider film knowledge.

Director Michel Gondry produced and starred in a swede of the film itself in order to advertise it. Watch what he came up with here:


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