Director: Michel Gondry
Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def
UK Release date: 22 February 2008
Certificate: 12 (94 mins)
Be Kind Rewind sees Jack Black turning in a Jack Black™ performance as Jerry, a junkyard owner who one day decides to sabotage the neighbouring electricity substation for fear it's melting his brain. But as is typical of Jack Black – I mean “Jerry” – misplaced enthusiasm results in failure and he becomes magnetised. So when Jerry visits his friend Mike (Mos Def) who works in a video shop he accidentally wipes all the tapes. In an effort to fool Miss Falewicz, the holidaying owner's proxy and one remaining customer, Jerry and Mike set about re-creating the films she wants to rent, starting with Ghostbusters.
Right about now you're probably thinking several things: Why not re-buy or copy other tapes of the films? Who on Earth wouldn't know the difference between a home movie and the effects-laden mega-hit Ghostbusters? People can't be magnetised!
In most other films these would be reasonable points but Be Kind Rewind hasn't got anything to do with reason. Writer-director Michel Gondry has created a world where everyone has bizarre ideas, they co-exist in peace, their idiosyncrasies go unchallenged, and where creativity is as instinctive as breathing. Its setting may be the city of Passaic in the heavily industrialised state of New Jersey, but spiritually this place has more in common with Teletubbyland. Be Kind Rewind is a whimsical film with its own internal logic and if you choose to go with it, it’s a joyous and rewarding experience.
You see, at a time when even the average child has the technology to shoot, edit, and distribute a movie in their pocket, a film set in the present about two grown men horsing around with camcorders and videotapes must seem a little late in the day, if not completely irrelevant. But in fact, Be Kind Rewind is the perfect antidote to the digital age. All this new technology was supposed to bring about a revolution. The internet was supposed to be a great democratizing force, but it’s mostly been a new way to get old things. Music, TV, movies are all fundamentally the same. Multi-channel TV is filled with repeats and the only new choice it's given us is whether we should watch Hollyoaks now or in one hour’s time? More4 should be renamed The Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Stuffs Ten Different Birds Inside Each Other to Make a Giant Roast Dinner Channel and the channel called ‘Dave’ should really be called The Top Gear Fellas Make Boats out of Cars Channel. Instead of empowering us, the technology has made us complacent.
Be Kind Rewind takes the power back. As Jerry and Mike recreate classic movie moments we’re reminded that creativity is what’s most valuable. There's no computer editing or CGI here. When they use tinsel suspended from fishing rods to stand in for the streams of the Ghostbusters’ proton packs, or strategically place a children’s road-plan play mat beneath two characters to suggest they’re are hanging from a building high above a city, the viewer can’t help but be in awe of the wit and ingenuity. And the characters’ enthusiasm is contagious. If you've ever had the privilege of making a film with friends or being part of a play then you'll know that Gondry evokes perfectly the thrill of collaboration and invention.
There’s only one real problem with Be Kind Rewind. Because of the film’s unrelenting child-like environment, the characters lack any level of complexity. And so while their actions are emotive and have meaning, they themselves seem empty. Nonetheless, there are plenty of mistakes this film could have made but didn’t. The remakes could have been crude, cynical parodies but surprisingly the source material is irrelevant as Jerry and Mike’s films come from their memory and are more about their experience of them. It’s testament to the incredible inventiveness of Michel Gondry that this one-note film sustains itself. So go see it now, just in case something goes wrong at the video shop.