Laugh-free comedy from Jack Black

Be Kind Rewind Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Melonie Diaz, Mia Farrow, Sigourney Weaver, Chandler Parker; Dir: Michel Gondry; Cert: 12A; 1hr 40m.

Andrew Clarke

Be Kind Rewind Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Melonie Diaz, Mia Farrow, Sigourney Weaver, Chandler Parker; Dir: Michel Gondry; Cert: 12A; 1hr 40m

Director Michel Gondry is a highly imaginative and very exciting film-maker. Seeing his name on the credits is more of a reason to see Be Kind Rewind than the presence of Jack Black - or so you would think.

Micehl Gondry is the highly imaginative and stylised director behind such quirky movies as The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep. You see his name and you expect big things.

Unfortunately, in Be Kind Rewind, it is almost impossible to see his presence. There are a couple of visual “moments” which suggest he may have turned up to supervise shooting on that day but they are very few and far between.

Be Kind Rewind is a run of the mill Jack Black vehicle - not even the best Jack Black vehicle. It's just Jack being his mad cap self which we have seen up dozens of occasions previously.

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It's a high concept comedy which is a nice idea behind it but you need more than a clever idea to make a film work - you need a story and you need the characters to go on a journey and for their tale to have some sort of resolution. It's not rocket science but it does seem to be beyond the reach of Hollywood producers looking for a quick buck.

The central conceit which drives Be Kind Rewind is one that is easy to pitch at a meeting in order to secure funding. Jack Black and Mos Def are left in charge of a run-down video store in a poor neighbourhood and Black accidentally erases all the videotapes. The pair set about recording their own versions of several contemporary classics in order to give them something to rent. Unexpectedly these amateur videos are a huge hit with their clientele and business booms until the Hollywood big boys send in corporate lawyer Sigourney Weaver to destroy their stock.

If you over-look the fact that VHS rental videos are now extinct, then the central premise is rather fun but as it stands is no more than a five minute sketch. Getting Jack Black and Mos Def to re-enact classic scenes from Ghostbusters and Driving Miss Daisy is mildly entertaining but you can't stretch out such a simple gag into a 100 minute movie - sadly that is exactly what Gondry and Black have done.

We keep getting the same gag repeated time and time again. The strain on the audience's patience is made worse by the fact that Mos Def has such a peculiar delivery that it is impossible to make out large chucks of his dialogue. If you are going: “What did he say?” you are not laughing - presuming, of course, what he said was funny, which is by no means certain.

Jack Black steals the limelight as usual, plying his usual larger-than-life schtick. He plays a paranoid conspiracy theorist who runs a nearby scrap metal yard and is convinced that the local power station is trying to take over their minds. No explanation for this behaviour is provided.

There is a minimal sub-plot concerning Mr Fletcher, played with great dignity by Danny Glover, who is trying to keep his video store from being torn down by the city council and his continuing love-affair with the music and career of Fats Waller.

Be Kind Rewind is mildly diverting but it is not classic cinema and to be honest doesn't even live up to the promise of the original idea. It's the sort of film that could have been made during the writers' strike because there doesn't appear to have been work done on developing a story or supplying the characters with some comic dialogue. Most of the laughs come from Jack Black running around acting crazy and trying to stage some impromptu remakes of landmark moments from recent movies. These entertaining moments quickly pall and the denouement is decidedly flat.

Hugely disappointing.


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