We’ve seen films about failing independent shops before. So this would have to be extra special if it was going to get away with it. Unfortunately for Be Kind Rewind, it isn’t special and it doesn’t get away with it.
The nostalgia evoked from the footage of real life jazz musician Fats Waller makes for an optimistic beginning. But that ends and the remainder of the long first half I’m solely preoccupied with why director Michel Gondry decided to centre our laughs around two friends making amateur versions of popular films (never mind the baffling power-plant section), rather than focusing the humour on attempts to salvage the floundering video shop. Elroy Fletcher, played by Danny Glover, leaves his shop with his employee while away at Fats Waller’s memorial. Cue Kenan and Kel silliness and much shop wrecking led by Mos Def’s Mike and Jack Black’s Jerry. Jerry is infuriatingly idiotic, while Mike is simply uninteresting. In fact, the film would have been far more successful if it had centred on Elroy completely, an old-school shop-keeper reluctant to move with the times.
If characterisation isn’t the film’s strongest point then what is? The second half proves to be mildly redeeming as the action quickens and has a purpose – to raise money for the renovation of the video store. However, overall Be Kind Rewind lacks the substance that many comedies manage to attain, perhaps because it lacks a strong, consistent narrative. The little depth that is there – the good, vhs old being replaced by the bad and soulless dvd new – is left drowning in triviality.
The film finishes on the warm note on which it began. Forget Rewind, it’s just unfortunate that there’s no Fast-Forward.