Sorry to be this way, but there seems to be reason to not only dislike but resist Michel Gondry‘s Be Kind Rewind (New Line, 1.25). The plot is about a video-store clerk (Mos Def) and his eccentric best buddy (Jack Black) have to reshoot dozens of popular movies after Black’s accidentally erases the store’s entire inventory of VHS tapes. Uh-huh. I know…forget naturalism and just go with it like we did with Human Nature, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotlesss Mind and The Science of Sleep.
Except I’ve chosen to not go with it this time, and I don’t care if dissing it sight unseen makes me sound small-minded or whatever. The plot sounds irritating as hell and, in the words of David Mamet, I say “no” to that.
Flight-of-fancy movies are Gondry’s signature, of course, but for any present-tense film to even half-work it has to half-resemble some fundamental aspect of the real- time world, especially if has anything to do with technology, old or new. I realize how groaningly literal-minded it sounds for someone like myself to say “no one except backwater Luddites watches movies on VHS tape these days, and finding a store that stocks only VHS is next to impossible.” But these two statements happen to be true, dammit. If I could make this awareness go away for Michel Gondry’s sake by clapping my hands, I would do that. But it won’t.
This is a movie that might have worked ten years ago, maybe. It seems so fanciful-flimsy it already feels like a mosquito buzzing around my ear. Part of me has always been vaguely irritated with Gondry, and now may be the time to slap him down like a drunk needs to be shaken hard and made to sober up with green tea or black coffee. I’m not saying I intend to trash Be Kind Rewind when it plays at Sundance, which would be stupid. But I’m halfway there.