DVD Review: Be Kind Rewind

No need to rewind -- 2.5 stars

Directed by Michel Gondry. February, USA. PG-13: 102 min.

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 7-1-08)


Be Kind Rewind stars Mos Def as Mike, a clerk at Be Kind Rewind video rental; Jack Black as Jerry, a loony junkyard worker and store regular; and Danny Glover as Mr. Fletcher, the video store owner and Mike’s surrogate father. With business on the decline and city hall planning on bulldozing his building to make room for a new condominium complex, Fletcher leaves town for a few days to conduct some research on how to make enough money to save his business. He leaves Mike in charge of the shop with one piece of advice: keep Jerry out. Who would have guessed that a character portrayed by Jack Black might be a major annoyance to other customers, prone to conjuring crazy ideas and knocking down shelves of VHS tapes?

Jerry’s belief that the government controls his mind with electrical waves leads him to plan a sabotage mission to batter a power plant transformer with a grappling hook. His plan doesn’t work quite right, and with shades of Ernest Goes to Jail, Jerry gets lifted into the air from electrocution and becomes “magnetized.” When he stumbles in the video store the next day and begins rearranging the movies in non-alphabetical order, he blanks all the tapes. After a customer demands a copy of Ghostbusters, saying she hadn’t seen it before but heard it was good, Mike and Jerry hatch a plan to make their own amateur version of the movie. The next day, they get a request for Rush Hour 2, and soon news spreads all over town about how fun and inventive Mike and Jerry’s “Sweded” movies are. The store, once stagnant, hops with business, and the future looks bright for Be Kind Rewind. OPINION

I would rate Be Kind Rewind 2.5 stars out of 4. Although the picture has genuinely funny and endearing moments, expect some cheap PG-13 humor of the fart and slapstick varieties. The plot also seems disjointed in places. The movie begins as a small affair, a study of an awkward friendship. As the plot unfolds, however, the scope becomes grander and grander until suddenly a whole city is involved, and the movie feels less wacky and more sentimental.

Overall, Be Kind seemed a little weak for the likes of Michel Gondry, whose artful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (and, many argue, should have beat out Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King for Best Picture). But I’d say it’s worth a rental to watch the quirky characters’ creative remakes bring the residents of a rundown community together.


I figured that in addition to the typical “making of” documentary and actor/director commentary, New Line Home Video would include some of those nifty amateur shorts that Jack Black and Mos Def’s characters make in the movie. Renters and purchasers of the DVD, released on June 17, have no such luck.

For the list price of $27.95 (marked down to $19.95 on the New Line website and $14.99 on Amazon), you get the option of widescreen or full screen feature presentation, a couple choices for subtitles, and a whopping two special features: the movie trailer and a short behind-the-scenes piece called “Passaic Mosaic”—basically showing how the professional cast and crew bonded with the locals from Passaic, New Jersey who took small roles in the film. Evidently, the town used to be a bustling industrial center until two kids set a whole factory complex aflame just by playing with matches. Sounds like a tall tale, but the point is that it’s a historic town fallen upon hard times and a possible target for developers and yuppies to move to buy and renovate old tenements, which is the major conflict of the film.

“Passaic Mosaic” is fun, but I’m surprised there’s no option to play voiceover commentary, no outtakes or deleted scenes, no documentary focusing on the film’s conception and production, and most of all, no “Sweded” remakes. They could have at least included the fake trailers posted on their website.