Be Kind Rewind (Gondry, 2008)

After the aggravating artificiality of The Science of Sleep, it’s encouraging to see Michel Gondry retain some genuine humanity with his latest film Be Kind Rewind, a semi-fantastical romp surrounding an out of touch video store dealing with changing technologies and infringing developers. Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) and his protege Mike (Mos Def) run the failing VHS outlet with little worry, a business framed by a crumbling multicultural neighborhood of well meaning supporting players and kindred spirits. After Mike’s bumbling friend Jerry (Jack Black) becomes magnetized and erases all the tapes, the duo begins to remake certain films using a video camera and loads of creativity (the Ghostbusters example sets the standard right away). Of course, these “sweeded” films become a hit with the working class folk and provide a much needed spark for all involved. Be Kind Rewind depends heavily on this great hook (the exciting homemade remakes) to hang its mostly familiar underdog story. If the entire process feels a bit whimsical and far-fetched, its because Gondry moves deeper into sentimentality and farther away from his patented narrative craziness, which is both a blessing and a curse. Gondry seems enthralled with the montage sequences in particular, including the fascinating juxtaposition of all the films being remade captured in one long, engaging take. This structural digression from plausibility to a magical purity actually makes Be Kind Rewind a worthy throwback to old school Hollywood (Capra is the obvious example), where the hero redeems himself through historical revisionism, in turn finding solace and hope for the future.