In 1995, Get Shorty caught John Travolta on the rise, just after his career-reviving role in Pulp Fiction. The role of Chili Palmer, a shylock who brings his criminal cool to bear as a movie producer, helped cement Mr. Travolta's return to leading-man status.
While of dubious moral value, Get Shorty was a vibrant effort on many fronts. In addition to a good soundtrack, the movie's skewering of the business of Hollywood as not very different than organized crime is priceless.
Be Cool attempts to move Chili (Mr. Travolta) from the movie business to the music business. Both movies and music suffer in the resulting abomination, a film that demonstrates no good reason for its existence except to capitalize on a (modest) 10-year-old success.
The movie is rated PG-13 for violence, sensuality, and language including sexual references, and that in itself is a travesty. The film self-consciously pushes the envelope of the rating, featuring an early exchange discussing the number of times a certain obscenity can be used before a movie gets bumped up to an R. (The answer is one-so Be Cool fills that quota in the same scene, and subsequently finds "creative" ways to communicate the same thing.)
Be Cool actually becomes a useful object lesson. It would be easy to come up with a dozen R-rated films more edifying and appropriate for a teenage audience, proving once again that parents must look beyond the MPAA rating.
A bunch of celebrities are in Be Cool. None comes out looking particularly good. The movie is derivative, tiredly self-referential, and completely lacking in creative spark. Who exactly thought it was clever to rip off movies so closely antecedent to Be Cool, including Pulp Fiction, which was in itself a collage of knowing references to other films?
Chili begins the film talking about the artistic sacrifices involved in making a sequel, something to which his character has just acquiesced. For a movie so concerned with the calamitous plight of such bottom-line-driven projects, Be Cool is remarkably bad. Or is that part of the joke? That doesn't make the film any funnier, but for the sake of everyone involved, I hope it's true.