Be Kind Rewind * * * * *
Some of my favorite movie memory gushes are simply certain scenes that I’ve carried with me through the walk from childhood to adulthood. They are scenes that I would recreate in my bedroom, sand box, ditch, woods or just simply in my head while at school. Even today, certain scenes that speak to me can mean more than a whole movie’s message. And in my head, those scenes don’t always translate back to a celluloid copy of the original. They are my memories and my nostalgia to one of my favorite mediums of immediacy to this life, the movies.
Director Michel Gondry’s eternal inner-child and hands-on effects brilliance takes movie nostalgia and mixes it with a smiling, bubbly and warm cauldron of community creativity. He makes movies within a movie on what may be his best picture, and my favorite picture so far of 2008, “Be Kind Rewind”. Gondry has to be in the top five of creative geniuses playing today and I think he proves it with his latest feast of cinemadhesive.
Danny Glover plays Mr. Fletcher, a run-down video store owner in Passaic, NJ, a town high on past’s ladder, but on the bottom rung in the “project” present. Mr. Fletcher is in the past on technology too, as he makes a few dollars per day on loyal customers’ appreciation for his small selection of VHS rental tapes, thrift store junk and refreshments. His helper, and quasi-adopted son, Mike (played by the excellent Mos Def), is a nice kid who just enjoys being around his mentor. Mike’s best friend is Jerry (Jack Black), a loud-mouth, kooky friend who lives in a junk yard R.V. across the street under power transformers and always hangs out at the video store. Mr. Fletcher has filled Mike, Jerry and the community with visions of the importance of the video store’s heritage, as Fats Waller, a famous and happy-go-unlucky blues musician was born in the building and rooted in the community with his music and spirit. Sadly, the city is planning to send the video store to the projects in order to trade in the past for a future of high dollar condominiums and high dollar development on the very site of Fats Waller’s foundation.
Mr. Fletcher leaves for a week to memorialize Fats Waller’s anniversary passing and to also research the home movie market in hopes of rebuilding his business and the block. He hands store management to Mike, and only at the simple request, “Keep Jerry Out!”. But, during a botched sabotage to the government conspiracy of the power transformers microwaves behind Jerry’s R.V., Jerry becomes electrocuted and magnetized and ends up erasing all the VHS tapes in the store. Mike and Jerry then set-out in hilarious, heart-warming, low-budget, one-take panics to recreate movies from the top of their memories like “Ghostbusters”, “Rush Hour 2”, “The Lion King”, “Robocop” and “Driving Miss Daisy” for their most loyal customers (Mia Farrow is one of them). Word gets out with long waiting lines and big dollar signs ushering in Mr. Fletcher as he returns from his trip. Soon, the entire neighborhood is involved with the recreation of their favorite films and scenes from their nostalgia. They celebrate movies with heart and creativity, shooting films on the fly with whatever they have around them. They end up doing a bit of their own community development in the process as everybody pitches in to crank out hundreds of movies together. In the end after suffering from a silly lawsuit against Hollywood movie corporations that caused the destruction of the tapes, the community creates the ultimate movie of originality and heart. It’s the movie celebrating the life and death of Fats Waller and Passaic, NJ, which premiers just before demolition of the video store.
“Be Kind Rewind” is a unique movie experience that I recommend highly, and as everything that Michel Gondry touches (from music videos to television commercials and motion pictures) you’ll laugh, grin and cry. But, this is more than a movie. It’s more than just a movie about movies. This movie is a celebration and preservation for life, spirit, community, creativity, love, nostalgia…and movies! It’s a movie that really did help build community spirit as the people of Passaic, NJ got to play parts and help bring the movie magic to life. It’s a movie about recognizing the path of the past to the present and helping to make a difference for the future, even if the past in your head is skewed a tad-bit. The movie even celebrates something that I still believe in and still am able to connect many of my beloved movies to, the so-called dying medium of the VHS tape. And if the tapes die or if the player stops working, I guess I’ll have to upgrade to all DVD or whatever the next big thing is. But, my personal love and memories for the movies never will pass.