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Be Kind Rewind | Review

Out with the new and in with the Old: Gondry proposes a sincere comedy that is fit for the VHS liquidation bin.

A valentine’s card to the movies we love and a reminder that the past is an important dynamic in describing who we are and where we come from, Be Kind Rewind proposes that the hybrid of the two can bring about some hilarious content – but the phony film sets with accompanying cardboard cutouts and the artificial emotional output is rhythmically closer to children’s programming than a high concept comedy. Michel Gondry was able to integrate emotional subtext with his panache for inventiveness and bag of visual tricks with The Science of Sleep, but here, his ideas and possible social message mix terribly in a screenplay that doesn’t have the narrative elasticity to become a fully engaging comedy. Gondry’s newest is a belly-flop of Human Nature-like proportions.

Playing with the concept of community spirit that was a prime characteristic in his neighborhood docu experience Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, Mos Def surfaces once again, in a role that makes the entertainer come across like a video-store employee with downs syndrome. Conjoined at the hip with Jack Black, the pair wrestle with characters that have the presence of a pair of woodened puppet show characters – there are a handful of scenes where you get the impression that the pair had to act about with not much stimuli.

Commencing with a headache inducing black & white 16mm-like film that suggests the historical ties to the past-its-prime video store location, Gondry’s ode to the filmmaking, film history and all things from the past is comically expressed with re-imagined takes on classic films such as Ghostbusters, Robocop, and a slew of New Line home video properties. This should normally be the comedies’ favored moments – but it is the copycat versions, or as Gondry has coined them “Sweded”, that have the potential of really influencing a video-creating culture.

In a time where technology sometimes stifles our creative juices, the best moment comes in a montage sequence that ties together many Sweded examples – but the real disappointment comes not in the fact that the film is low on laughs or that Gondry tries to whimsically introduce a social message, but instead the filmmaker never bothers to incorporate the Sweded films from the POV of the many people who watched and rented the dollar rentals. The clumsy-like quality of the picture, the tagged artificial sense of sincerity (especially in the film’s proposed magical ending) and the majority of the film’s tone only emphasize that this is about an inventor bursting with ideas, and here Gondry only manages to explore them a notch above Carrot Top silliness. This is forgettable as soon as the movie ends.

Rating 1 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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