Tag Archives: F

BE KIND REWIND

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It doesn’t take much miscalculation to turn whimsy into stupidity, and Michel Gondry definitely crosses the line in “Be Kind Rewind,” a comedy that also has the misfortune of being culturally tone-deaf. One can see what the writer-director was aiming for—recreating the scruffy sort of slacker comedy that budget-starved filmmakers made in the sixties and seventies, while sending up feel-good flicks about goofballs saving some fringe business from destruction at the hands of “the man.” But the level of foolishness here is simply too high, and the execution so slapdash that the result doesn’t seem so much a parody of amateurishness as an example of it.

The locale of the action is a run-down store in a drab neighborhood of Passaic, New Jersey that, for some unexplained reason, still rents out only VHS tapes of movies, never having moved to the DVD format. Presumably the set-up is intended as a variant of the music store of “High Fidelity,” but it’s unbelievable—there are still fans of LP records over CDs, but does anybody actually collect video tapes anymore? But that problem just involves the location. The real difficulty occurs when the plot kicks in as grizzled owner Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), pressured by a city administration that wants to tear his store down to make room for condos, leaves the place in the keeping of his rather slow clerk Mike (Mos Def) while he goes off, apparently to scope out other stores for clues about improving business.

Unfortunately Mike’s closest buddy is neighborhood oddball Jerry (Jack Black), a motormouth wack job who gets magnetized trying to sabotage the local power plant and accidentally erases all the store’s tapes. One might think the boys would think of replacing them by making tape copies from DVDs—an easy process. But instead they decide to film their own versions of the movies. We’re supposed to get a kick out of watching them “re-enacting,” in their blundering, bargain-basement way, scenes from pictures like “Ghostbusters” and “Rush Hour 2,” but the fact is that the experience is positively painful, especially since apparently the only instruction that Gondry gave to Black was to be as irritating and strident as humanly possible, a directive he proved all too capable of fulfilling.

But the script then ratchets up the implausibility quotient by alleging that the boys’ homemade videos become hugely popular among the locals, until anti-piracy studio bigwigs intervene. And tossed into the mix to provide a nutty upbeat finale is a plot thread about jazz legend Fats Waller, who—Fletcher claims—was born in the building where his store’s located. The final effort to save the place involves making a neighborhood movie about Waller’s life, in spite of the fact that Fletcher admits his story is a crock.

So’s Gondry’s, and it’s unlikely to enjoy a similar degree of unlikely success, not only because it’s a totally lame bit of preciousness, and one so sloppily made that it has the quality of a bad student film (and it doesn’t matter if that’s intentional). Under the circumstances it’s not surprising that the actors fare poorly. Black throws himself into things with a maniacal intensity that’s exhaustingly unfunny from frame one, and Def is positively soporific by comparison. Glover, decked out in bad old-age makeup, sleepwalks almost as pitifully, and Sigourney Weaver is wasted as the hard-nosed studio lawyer who puts the kibosh to the boys’ movies with a steamroller.

It’s a pity that machine wasn’t also employed to crush the negative of “Be Kind Rewind” before it was unleashed on an unwary world. Even fans of Gondry’s earlier, vastly overpraised pictures should agree that in this case the emperor has no clothes.

THE BROTHERS SOLOMON

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There are two Wills in “The Brothers Solomon,” but there’s still no way it’s a remotely good movie. Or even a mediocre one. This is a dismally unfunny comedy; the degree of awfulness can be imagined by the fact that the idea behind it was apparently rejected for a sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” Consider the enormity of that—turned down for SNL, a show that hasn’t been funny for fifteen years. And the movie turns out to be so bad it might make you nostalgic for another SNL dumb duo farce, “A Night at the Roxbury,” lousy as it was. Even the opening credits, featuring a parade of close-ups of the two leering stars, are dreadful.

The script by Will Forte casts himself and Will Arnett as siblings Dean and John Solomon, a couple of socially inept, doofus guys who agree to seek a woman to bear a grandchild that will bring joy to their terminally ill father (Lee Majors) and perhaps keep him alive until the kid arrives. After a couple of failed attempts to convince women to marry them—one played, in a pathetic cameo, by the talented Jenna Fischer (Pam of “The Office”)—they hire a surrogate, Janine (Kristen Wing). Add to the mix her burly boyfriend (Chi McBride) and a sexy next-door neighbor (Malin Akerman) that John is hot for but is only interested in helping the duo care for their dad, and you have just about everything the movie has to offer in the way of plot: the rest of the picture just follows the pregnancy and the two idiots’ efforts to prepare themselves for being joint fathers.

Not that Forte, Arnett, and fumbling director Bob Odenkirk seem to care much about plot in any logical sense, or much of anything else. “The Brothers Solomon” is really nothing more than a hopelessly feeble comedy sketch cruelly extended to feature length, so terrible that you find yourself hoping—since the script is divided up into the stages of the pregnancy—that this will be the miraculous childbirth that won’t take the full three trimesters to complete.

The operative word here is stupidity—the movie celebrates it, and also obnoxiousness. John and Dean are supposed to be endearingly dumb, one supposes, but they’re less sweetly clueless than appalling. And everything is played in such a sluggish, lackadaisical fashion overall that Forte’s hysterical grinning is all the more gruesome. Forte, by contrast, is utterly bland, virtually disappearing into the screen, and though Wiig and Akerman try to break through, they’re given nothing to deal with. One must pity McBride, who’s compelled to embarrass himself in this picture almost as badly as he did in his last one, the wretched “Let’s Go to Prison” (also starring Arnett and directed by Odenkirk). The only cast member who comes through nearly unscathed is Majors, whose character—good luck for him—goes through virtually the entire movie comatose.

The material gets the treatment it deserves from the crew. Tim Suhrstedt’s cinematography is garish, and Tracey-Wadmore-Smith’s editing is flaccid, with almost every sequence extended beyond its shelf life. But she can’t be blamed too much; the closing crawls demonstrate that the deleted scenes, some of which are included (along with some bloopers), were—wonder of wonders—even worse than the ones that made the final cut.

Completing the sad package is one of the worst background scores in the history of film, a bunch of moronically upbeat a cappella “Swinger Singers”-style ditties credited to John Swihart (buttressed by a bad collection of eighties pop tunes). There’s some justice, though, in that the music accompanies one of the worst scripts ever committed to celluloid.