The beauty of movies are their ultimate unpredictability. Just when you thought you’d seen it all – along comes French filmmaker Michel Gondry with one of the most original films of year with the funny, yet soulful Capra-esque story, “Be Kind Rewind.”
When a small antiquated video store has all of it’s tape erased in a freak accident, two friends come up with an idea to recreate the content – by reshooting their own versions of the missing movies. Mos Def stars as Mike, manager of the Be Kind Rewind video store. While their competitors are running huge Blockbuster-like operations, their small video store still rents VHS tapes to people in the tiny neighborhood of Passaic, New Jersey.
Together with his doofus friend, Jerry (Jack Black), the two carve out a forgettable existence with their biggest highlight is trying to raise awareness that the store’s location is the birthplace of famous jazz musician Fats Waller. One day, Jerry convinces Mike to break into a power plant to sabotage their operation. Thinking that his friend is just a little crazy, Mike deserts him and Jerry gets the shock of his life – literally! Unbeknownst to him, he becomes magnetized and soon erases every tape in the video store. With the owner, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) away at a “conference” (really scouting the competitor’s video store operation), the two men panic. Faced with a store full of blank tapes, what will they do?
In a moment of clarity, the two decide shoot their own remixed or “sweded” version of “Ghostbusters” and pass it off to an unsuspecting customer, Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow). Expecting the worst, their endeavor changes their lives as customers begin asking for all the titles to be sweded. Now the two friends are not only making films their own films but have become neighborhood celebrities as well.
Chock full of joy, their little video store becomes a neighborhood institution by doing it the old-fashioned way – not only giving the customers want they want but making them apart of the process. With the store slated to be torn down, the two friends race around the clock to create a community project designed to make enough money to starve off the demolition.
Gondry, who has made a career of creating sensitive, yet off-beat stories that don’t look like your standard Hollywood fare creates a not just a film but singular experience. The filmmaker got the idea for this film from working on “Dave Chappelle’s Block Party.” Chappelle initially was interested in playing Mike and came up with funny sweded concepts for several of the films that ended up in the finished product.
But this latest story truly taps into the “joy” of film. Whether the store can be saved is not important. Much like Gondry’s brilliant film, “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” he has brought old fashioned movie magic in this wonderfully told story with a lot of heart.