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Kinder gentler dunderheads

Movies | Be Kind Rewind characters hit on a scheme so stupid it's genius

Issue: "Our long war," March 8, 2008

If VHS is dead, don't blame Michel Gondry. The inventive, irrepressibly silly French director has written a love song to community art in the form of Be Kind Rewind, and he's done it using the videotape as his primary mode of expression. It seems that Jerry (Jack Black), a dim if well-meaning denizen of Passaic, N.J., has wandered into the local video store while his friend Mike (Mos Def) is on duty after being magnetized at the local power plant. Yes, you read that correctly.

This bodes ill for row upon row of videocassettes, and since the store's gentle owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover), has left Mike in charge, it's up to the two dunderheads to figure out how to fix the now-blank tapes. Because perhaps the only thing that holds no interest for Gondry is realism, the scheme Mike and Jerry hit upon is so stupid that it approaches genius: The two of them will remake all the movies in the store! Yes, that's it! Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow) hasn't seen Ghostbusters, anyway! The two recreate that movie as a Mike and Jerry film, starring Mike and Jerry, edited by Mike as he whispers the credits into the camcorder's microphone on his hurried way to hand off the tape to the unsuspecting Miss Falewicz.

The next scene is a crucial moment in two ways: First, it's the moment when Miss Falewicz comes back happy instead of angry and asks to rent Driving Miss Daisy, much to Mike's chagrin. Second, it's the moment in which Gondry reveals to us that he's not actually making a screwball comedy that references all your favorite movies. Instead, Be Kind Rewind (rated PG-13 for some mild sexual references) turns out to be a movie about what fun it is to make art together, and how rewarding life can be if lived communally (everyone ends up getting in on the moviemaking act).

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Gondry's movie is a lovely, guileless film probably best suited to grown-up couples or friends, but the prevailing virtues of this film are innocence and kindness.

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