After two superb and charming films, director Michel Gondry’s new work failed to impress due to a lack of visual coherence and unforgivable character designs. Encouraged by his previous successes, Gondry exceeded the limit of sensibility and reduced Be Kind Rewind to a child’s flawed imagination riddled with banality.
It is safe to say Mr.Gondry blew it this time.
Most known for his quirky and childlike mise-en-scène and cinematography, Gondry started his career as a music video director. In 2004, Gondry received major exposure due to the enthusiastic reception of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind by critics and audiences alike. With the success of his second movie, The Science of Sleep, much applause and mystique were built up around the newly acclaimed director. Gondry proceeded with his next highly anticipated project, starring Jack Black and Mos Def, which proved to be overwhelmingly disappointing.
Set in a desolate town in New Jersey, nearly all scenes from Be Kind Rewind are filmed around one street corner of this industrial wasteland set. Between a junkyard and time-lagged video store, the scenery ends up stifling the audience instead of establishing an honest setting. The imprisoning location is sickening; however, the set really fades in comparison to Jack Black’s stifled character.
Aside from Black’s attributes as an actor, his portrayal of a delusional village idiot is as far as one can relate or identify. The over-exaggerated performance voids the few humanistic qualities Black’s character possessed in the first place.
Throughout the movie Black’s character has been reduced to a semi-functional, over-animated shell of a role. This kind of poor character development is common in Will Ferrell satirical flicks, but it is more than disturbing when presented in a Michel Gondry film.
After all the disintegrating plot elements surrounding a local landmark and survival of a business, the film’s half-hearted theme of “bring the community together” rings hollow.
Salvos of originality for Michel Gondry became nothing more than the old formulaic plot continuation blended with the atrocious use of magical realism to justify the trivial plot.
As unforgiving as Be Kind Rewind appears, it does not claim the title of worst movie ever.
Aided by Gondry’s signature style of making props like an under-budgeted children’s craft show and Mos Def’s semi-convincing character as a naïve and undecided shop boy, it’s difficult not to find some level of entertainment value. Probably the only redeemable quality is the film’s cute nature, yet it is nowhere enough to offset the overall frustration the film delivers.
Be Kind Rewind feels very much like a fragmented childhood fantasy projected in the least constructive way.
Gondry’s attempt at being intimate with his audiences has perverted into nuisance. With enough luck, Gondry will admit to his mistake and continue to produce more respectable films such as his previous features.