One good thing that could have come out of a long Writers Guild strike is the broadcast cancellation of the Oscars. Studio productions are so dependent on award consideration that it would have been a chance for Hollywood to rethink its strategies.
Celebrating the joy of making and watching movies, without the goal of prestige, is the great thing about Be Kind Rewind. Michel Gondry’s film is a broad comedy, but its main idea is the value of communal satisfaction.
The film’s inspired concept focuses on the type of movie kids in the ’80s watched on rental VHS tapes. Videotape is what most film buffs now in their twenties and thirties grew up with and accepted as the norm. In Be Kind Rewind’s Passaic, New Jersey, the format maintains a market.
Mike (Mos Def) fumbles his duty of watching over mentor Mr. Fletcher’s (Danny Glover) VHS rental shop, when his friend Jerry (Jack Black)---his brain magnetized from a power plant incident---accidentally erases all the store’s videos. Mike and Jerry can’t let the customers down and resort to remaking the movies themselves---using whatever scenes they remember and whatever means they can find.
Their versions of populist hits like Robocop, Boyz N the Hood, Men in Black and Driving Miss Daisy have the something-out-of-nothing creative spirit of junior high students shooting a weekend epic. Gondry celebrates this true form of guerilla filmmaking; when Jerry protests a customer taking their version of Ghostbusters home---“We should have had a premiere for that,”---his enthusiasm is infectious.
The community bonds in excitement as Mike and Jerry become local celebrities. Here, Gondry connects Be Kind Rewind to the inclusiveness of his concert film Dave Chappelle’s Block Party. Mike and Jerry’s (and Gondry’s) DIY-moviemaking shouldn’t be taken as a vain rejection of the blockbuster mentality. Rather, the film’s about a neighbourhood on the fringes united by the discovery of its own art and history.
Gondry’s childlike fascination, his optimism with life, is endlessly creative. Because he populates Be Kind with characters who think the same way, some critics have questioned the movie’s legitimacy, calling its “whimsy” a strained annoyance (because the word “quirky” was exhausted in their Juno reviews). The unlikely comedy works because it comes from an artist’s natural and humane impulse.
Be Kind Rewind offers its viewers the same reward that Mike and Jerry’s customers find in their homemade genre films: lo-fi, big soul.