If Be Kind Rewind doesn’t feel like any movie you have seen in a while, there’s a good reason for that, Be Kind Rewind is a throwback to 80’s moviemaking. Just as the majority of the movies that Mike and Jerry remake are from the 80’s to early 90’s, the theme of Be Kind Rewind is the end of one era that held the kind of gritty personal appeal embodied by the videotape, Mr. Fletcher’s shoestring tenement video store and the 80’s movie, and the rise of another smoother glossy era embodied by DVD’s, chain video stores, high priced condos and a filmmaking that is is artificial and soulless.
The problem with Be Kind Rewind though is that virtually all of the movies that Mike and Jerry shoot look like they might be a lot more fun than Be Kind Rewind itself. While Be Kind Rewind has the trappings of the sort of movies Hollywood used to make, before movies turned into smoothly polished demographically targeted products devoid of texture, it lacks the energy of the best 80’s movies. With Be Kind Rewind, Michael Gondry finds the texture of a great 80’s comedy like Brewster’s Millions, Let It Ride or Major League but none of the energy.
For all its scenes of whimsical amateur tributes to movies like Robocop and Ghostbusters, Be Kind Rewind is surprisingly downbeat and soppy. Jack Black is the only actor in the movie who appears to be having any fun delivering one of his usual manic over caffeinated performances, while Mos Def and Danny Glover mope relentlessly through a 100 minutes of the movie. The biggest hole in Be Kind Rewind is Mos Def whose awkward stilted performance makes it seem as if this is his first time on a movie set. Had Michael Gondry followed his original plan of casting Dave Chapelle as Mike, Be Kind Rewind might have been an entirely different movie that you could imagine John Candy and Richard Pryor starring in once upon a time. Instead it’s the movie Danny Glover limps through and Mos Def apologetically sidles through as if he wants to avoid calling any attention to himself on camera.
Be Kind Rewind is billed as a comedy but it’s barely funny, instead like Jerry it’s caught up in its own sense of importance and like Mike it’s too busy feeling down to actually have some fun. Michael Gondry’s own sense of playfulness is highly present when it comes to the Sweded movies but absent from most of the rest of Be Kind Rewind which adopts the worst cliches of the 80’s movie, without any of its spirit.