This is a surreal movie. Not because Michel Gondry is a prankster of an art designer who exclusively makes films that are dreamscapes. But because, god damn it, I worked in that video store. No, not the titular video store, but West Coast Video, the rival. The manifestation of corporate evil. I wore the light blue denim uniform. I hung the cheap purple and yellow paper signs on the walls. I alphabetized the DVDs. My video store is in a Michel Gondry movie. Weird.
And make no mistake, this is a movie for video store clerks, for all movie lovers. The centerpiece of the film is as artsy high-concept as it gets: video clerks are forced to remake, or mis-remake, the modern classics of cinema – a process they call “Sweding”. These ultra-low budget adaptations of Hollywood blockbusters provide a perfect venue for Gondry to flex his inventive art design muscles. The result is spectacular; visually, comedically, poignantly. And while it helps if you’ve seen the movies that Mos and Black “swede” (Ghostbusters, Rush Hour 2, Driving Miss Daisy, who hasn’t seen these?) it’ll be a fun ride either way.
The performances all hit their marks. Jack Black’s absurd side kick antics compliment Mos Def’s Woody Allen-esque anxiety. And after watching far too much Will Ferrell, it’s worth appreciating that Jack Black’s comedy still doesn’t feel like schtick.
At times, the movie gets a little too cute for my taste, and Gondry’s art school style isn’t for everyone. But it’s good. Overall, it just works.
P.S. Michel Gondry “sweded” the trailer for Be Kind Rewind. Here it is: