Screened as part of NZIFF 2008
Fun and inventiveness come so effortlessly to writer/director Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) that with each new work of goofy, retrograde surrealism he reminds us how much those virtues are missing from mainstream American movies. And in Be Kind Rewind - which has a plot so flimsy it's almost a blouse - Gondry has the audacity to turn that observation into a premise. This time around, Jerry (Jack Black) is a deranged and paranoid dreamer in blue-collar Passaic, New Jersey, whose wacky scheme to sabotage the local power substation results in an almighty zapping. When Jerry pops into the corner video store - yes, video; the new-fangled DVD is banned - run by his friend Mike (a delightfully doleful Mos Def), his magnetised brain erases their entire stock. In order to satisfy the store's most loyal renter, the two friends set out to remake the lost films, starting, improbably, with Ghostbusters, and progressing to Rush Hour II, The Lion King, Driving Miss Daisy and any number of turkeys and classics. Pretty soon, punters are queuing around the block for Mike and Jerry's amateur remakes.
The homemade aesthetic we have come to expect from Gondry is in full swing here with oodles of cardboard costumes and ingeniously mocked-up sets, but what takes this beyond whimsy are the affectionately drawn characters, who you'll be cheering for by the end. Underlying the japes is a shambling critique of corporate Hollywood and a plug for grass-roots filmmaking, but really, Gondry is no preacher. His films deliver wondrous, childlike escapism - which Be Kind has in spades. — BZ