Be Kind Rewind

Be Kind Rewind (2008)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Mia Farrow
Extras: Featurettes

Michel Gondry writes and directs "Be Kind Rewind", a quirky comedy that follows in the footsteps of his recent theatrical features and yet is still in many ways one of his more accessible tales. I remember when I first discovered his work, he was responsible for Icelandic pop diva Bjork's five best videos, and he went on to direct a film which has a huge following, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", which is still his best feature in my opinion, and one that actually earned him an Oscar. His style is dreamy and strange, much like his peer Spike Jonze and somewhat reminiscent of Terry Gilliam (minus the nightmarish bleakness he has become known for recently). His films take place in a world unto themselves, and his films are always an interesting place to visit.

The film takes place in a dreary Passaic, New Jersey setting where two guys named Jerry (Jack Black) and Mike (Mos Def) live and dwell. Mike works for a video store called 'Be Kind Rewind' that is somewhat behind the times because of the sentimental and out of touch owner, Elroy Fletcher (Danny Glover), who still has yet to even upgrade to DVD. Still, the locally owned store has a lot of heart and offers its steady clientele a very diverse selection of obscure films, not just the hits, it even offers silent films and old footage which includes Fats Waller footage, a legendary jazz pianist and comedic entertainer whose name and spirit keeps popping up in the film especially at the films touching finale.

The building is in poor shape and is being threatened with being demolished, no doubt to convert it into a strip mall or something soulless, so Mr. Fletcher decides to take a little time off and do some research on the competition for himself to see if he can save his business. He leaves the awestruck Mike in charge of things, with specific instructions to not let Jerry anywhere near the place while he is gone, but this doesn't work, because Jerry somehow ends up demagnetizing the entire collection of videotapes after attempting a paranoid and crazy stunt at an electrical generating facility.

After a customer demands a copy of "Ghostbusters" the unlikely team set off to remake the film in its entirety, using mega low production values, but with an obvious love of the film, the tape becomes somewhat legendary, and before they know it they have become stars in their own right, and by the timer Mr. Fletcher arrives with his new plans to turn his store into a clone of Blockbuster they are running a fulltime moviemaking facility with lines building up around the block to be a part of the spectacle.

As unlikely and slapstick as the film sounds, it is actually a touching and effective (yet completely ridiculous) homage to film and it is really has heart. Black and Mos def are effective as the two main anti heroes, and if you love movies you may want to pick this minor comic fable up. Its lighthearted and half serious tone are infectious and although the films complete deviation from logic can maker you scratch your head, if you simply give yourself over to it's romanticized notions, you may come back quite pleased by the experience. It's Gondry's most fun film to date.

As for the video quality, the film certainly rises well above the VHS quality that the store deals with, featuring a very sharp and colorful image on this 25 GB Blu-ray disc released by New Line in an aspect ratio 0f 2.35:1. It nonetheless doesn't jump off the screen due to a somewhat subtle approach used by the director himself, still the black levels are appropriately balanced and the image is certainly a world above its standard definition counterpart. Even if it doesn't have the wow factor of some other titles, just the fact you are watching a film about a VHS store on Blu-ray is something of a kick really.

The sound certainly is well balanced featuring a DTS HD Master Lossless Audio track that certainly gets the job done right on 7.1 channels. Featuring a decent amount of surround action and a full and immersive experience, this track certainly showcases the films soundtrack quite effectively, and the dialogue was always easy to make out. Once again, this is a comedy and therefore you certainly don't expect a lot of over the top gimmicks or things of this nature, still what we get is a fine presentation of the films sound design and it's certainly no let down.

The special features (which are all in standard definition) include 'Passaic Mosaic' and it is an interesting portrait of the community, I am thrilled to be seeing more and more films taking place in actual communities as opposed to just New York or LA or without either and instead filmed in Vancouver. Passaic's quirky atmosphere and people are captured perfectly and the whole vibe of the city fits well with this film. The feature is about ten minutes.

'Conversation with Jack Black and Michel Gondry' is about six minutes long, along with a seven minute look at a deleted scene featuring Booker T and a star struck Danny Glover called 'Booker T and Michel Gondry'.

'Behind the Scenes Featurette' is that much more interesting because of the witty and intelligent cast they have put together for this film. Also included is a "Making of Featurette' that is just as entertaining because of the fascinating and creative people involved, it runs about thirty three minutes long and rises above the predictable nature most of these features usually succumb to.

'Musical Tribute to Fats Waller' is a wonderful feature that includes Mos Def singing and the director on drums doing some great performances of the legendary jazz great's music.

'Fats was born Here' is a wonderful addition, it is the complete biopic depicted in the film without any interruption. A very different and interesting feature and I wouldn't expect less from Gondry or New Line.

'Jack and Mos Improvise' simply features the two improvising on the film themes provided by the director. Entertaining and manic Jack Black at his best.

Although 'Be Kind Rewind' is far from Gondry's best, it is an amusing and touching meditation on the love of film and one that is easy to recommend. It appears that Gondry and crew had a great time making this film and it really comes through in the final product. Michel Gondry has done it again. Featuring a decent looking transfer and more than adequate sound this New Line Blu-ray features an entertaining and well put together round of bonus features that actually add to the enjoyment of the film, despite its obvious gaps in logic. "Be Kind Rewind" is a Blu-ray release that is easy to recommend as a rental, and fans of the film will surely want to add this to their Blu-ray shopping list.