A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 365 – Be Kind Rewind

Be Kind Rewind – February 28th, 2011

It’s hard to believe but tomorrow is our one year anniversary, which means that as of today we have watched a full year’s worth of movies. That’s a lot of movies. That’s a lot of good and a lot of bad and a lot of in between. And for me it’s been a lot of movies I’d never seen before and might not otherwise have watched. Tonight’s movie, however, was one that I’d been meaning to watch since it came out. And when thinking about what would make a good movie to mark the end of a year of movie watching this came to mind. After all, it’s not just about movies, but it’s about a lot of movies. It seemed fitting.

As Andy and I have mentioned, we worked at a video store when I was in college. It was a local chain and it was a bit of an idiosyncratic place with hand-written signs and staff members who took breaks to play video games. It was a local institution, with regular customers who came to us because we carried what no one else did. We were the sort of store that would make the effort to respool an entire videocassette onto new reels if it was something out of print and got broken (yes, I did that). So I have a soft spot for a movie that features a tiny little video rental place. It’s my sort of store. And so, when the plot of the movie becomes apparent, and you know that this quirky little video store is in a building scheduled to be torn down in the name of progress, well, I’m a sucker for that too. But of course, that’s just the impetus for what is the point of the movie.

The point of it all is movies. People who love movies. Having fun with movies. Having fun at the movies’ expenses. When a wacky plot device causes Jack Black’s character, Jerry, to become magnetized, he erases all the movies in the store just by being near them. This is absolutely horrific to me. And I say that as someone who might well have applied a strong magnet to a particularly annoying trailer tape when I worked at a certain video store that was not the one mentioned above. Magnets and videocassettes are not friends, kids. And thus we get to the gimmick of the film, which is that Jerry and Mike, played by Mos Def, have to find a way to replace the movies and keep the store open while the owner is away. So they record their own movies. They do fantastic no budget remakes of things like Ghostbusters, using tinsel on fishing rods as the proton streams and things like that. They make Rush Hour 2 with the help of some neighborhood kids and a jungle gym. And people like them. They want more. And they’re willing to pay $20 a pop for them. With the help of Alma (played by Melonie Diaz, whom I have fallen in love with now), who works at a local dry cleaner, they start to make more movies. They sign up new members. They make even shorter movies starring the new members so they can increase production and not lower prices.

There’s a fantastic shot that’s either all one shot or a very well pieces together series of shots where the camera pans around as the group make movie after movie after movie, skipping from set to set to set. It’s hilarious and to really get it all, you have to love movies. You have to know movies. If you do, it’s just flat out amazing. The trouble is that obviously the fun can’t last forever. The boss, played by Danny Glover, comes back and has a plan to switch to DVDs to save the store, then some lawyers show up and say they’ve got a court order to destroy all the tapes and okay, let me pause for a moment here.

Now, while I have no doubt in my mind that studios would be pretty ticked off by a store renting out remakes of their movies, this is not precisely now copyright works. My best guess is that the store’s use of the movies’ plots and characters and so on would end up violating enough to not fall under fair use when it comes to renting such things out (impact on market value is an issue here and I don’t know if the parody part would be enough to cancel it out) but without a court case and arguments about it all could they really seize the tapes and run them over with a steamroller? Really? Seize them, maybe, but they’d be evidence and need to be scrutinized. Copyright law is murky at best and certainly the fair use stuff makes for less than clear cut answers, but man, when Sigourney Weaver’s lawyer character mutters that they’re being made to look like the bad guys, well. There’s a reason for that. They are.

The problem with the movie is that it takes all this fun stuff with the movie parodies and stops it cold as soon as the lawyers show up. There’s all this fun with ketchup being dumped on a fake Carrie’s head and people lining up to get the chance to make their own movie and the neighborhood pulling together in this bizarre way. And then no. The end. No more. And so since that doesn’t really give us any closure, the movie has to keep going, veering off into a completely different direction, towards a documentary about a jazz musician named Fats Waller and the completely falsified history the people in the city of Passaic give him. There are mentions of him in the beginning, and about how he was supposedly born in the building the video store was in. Mike and his boss love him and idolize him and take a lot of pride in their connection to him. But it’s all in the background. In the far background. Because the movie flat out forgets about him for about an hour while Mike and Jerry run around in cheap costumes while Alma directs and films. And then oh hey, we can’t make our parody movies anymore. Let’s make a fake documentary with the whole neighborhood!

The weird thing is, that part is fun too! It’s really amazingly awesome to see this whole neighborhood get together and build sets and props and improvise the hell out of everything. It’s creative and funny and the story is outrageous and everyone seems to have a great time making it. But it’s such a completely different feel from the first section of the movie. And then when everyone gets together to watch the final product the demolition crew shows up to tear down the store and it all feels like it happened very quickly. It’s choppy and weird, but touching at the same time, which I find confusing. Still, overall I really enjoyed the movie. It’s paced oddly but while the parts don’t always fit together well, they’re each great to watch. And while the movie definitely didn’t make me like Jack Black (whom I find horribly irritating much of the time), it made me love Mos Def even more than I already did and it introduced me to Diaz, so I’d say it more than evens out.

February 28, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I loved this movie, but you’re right, the legal business doesn’t scan to me. Still, when I’m at work, I think at least once a week of Sigourney Weaver saying, “Oh, now I’m the bad guy.”

    Comment by A. | March 1, 2011 | Reply


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