My earliest recollection of VCR’s was when I was just a little boy and my parents went down to the local TV shop and purchased a Zenith for about $600. At the time, it was a wondrous machine and I can still remember fondly my copies of Ghostbusters or Die Hard and how many times I would watch them. I didn’t care whether the tapes had a case or which edition of the tape I had. As long as it was the original movie and the tape wasn’t beat to heck I was a happy camper. Times change. I don’t think I own a single VHS tape that isn’t exercise related and my dvds, more than 400 of them are cataloged and cared for to the utmost degree. In truth, I sometimes miss the VHS days when things were simpler & films sold on the film alone, not on how many extras the dvd has or how fantastic the Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is. Be Kind Rewind goes back to that simpler time and gives a movie that is more about substance than the tiny snap case it comes contained in.
Fletcher (played by Danny Glover) owns a VHS rental store called Be Kind Rewind on a corner lot in Passaic, New Jersey. The place has history claiming that legendary jazz musician, Fats Waller was born in the very store. But business has been in decline and now town officials wish to demolish the building and replace it with a new complex. However, they give Fletcher the chance to bring the place up to code. Fletcher decides to research a more successful DVD store and see what makes it tick. He leaves the store in the hands of his best (and only) employee Mike (played by Mos Def). On the train, Fletcher leaves Mike one last note scribbled backwards on the glass that reads “Keep Jerry Out”. Mike can’t decipher the message as the train speeds away.
Jerry (played by Jack Black) is Mike’s best friend. He also might be suffering from some severe brain disorder. Jerry lives down the street in a trailer right next to a power plant. He believes it might melt his brain (probably already has) and cooks up a plan with Mike’s help to sabotage the plant. Things go wrong and in the process, Jerry gets an electric shock is magnetized. The next day, Jerry decides to confront Mike for leaving him and walks into the video store. After an argument breaks out, he starts touching all the tapes. Later, once customers start to complain, Mike realizes that all of the tapes have been erased by Jerry’s magnetized body.
In walks Miss Falewicz, (played by Mia Farrow) the store’s most loyal customer. She wishes to rent Ghostbusters and is convinced to come back tomorrow by Mike & Jerry who need to cook up a plan to replace the erased cassette. Jerry comes up with the idea of re-creating the film and shooting it with an old VHS camcorder. The phrase “Sweded” is the name later applied to this method. They shoot enough material to make up twenty minutes and hand it off to Miss Falewicz. Another customer requests Rush Hour 2 and the team remakes it enlisting the help of another town member named Alama (played by Melonie Diaz). Soon, word spreads around these “Sweded” films and this creates a mass hysteria of eager customers. The money starts to pour in as the store tries to keep up with the requests. The question is can the store make enough money to keep the demolition crew away?
My real surprise is that a movie like this didn’t come any sooner. The director, Michel Gondry has done a fantastic job of creating a genuinely funny story with a great cast ensemble. The story has some real heart and Jack Black isn’t annoying! Actually I like Jack a lot, I’ve seen probably eighty to ninety percent of his films but he doesn’t dominate this film like he does others. He’s a part of the movie and plays his part to a tee. The other actors and actresses all play their roles very well and come together to become an actual cast where no one role overtakes another. There are some issues with the likelihood that this could take place. Also, maybe I’m the only one but I was somewhat confused by the ending. However, outside of that I found it to be a very enjoyable film.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen and 1.33:1 Fullscreen presentation. My review is based on the Widescreen side and it is a very clear picture. The irony is overwhelming but I found very few issues with the quality and clarity. DVD has done wonders with this film even though this is a film about a VHS rental store. I didn’t check out the Fullscreen side but suffice to say if it isn’t devoid of menus and no screen selection, I think they missed the point.
The audio is provided in 5.1 English Dolby Digital with a French 2.0 mix also included. The movie sounds pretty clear with dialog sitting in the center channel as needed. The action sequences are somewhat limited in surround sound scope but perform the task that is needed. I suppose they could have done a few cool effects here due to the theme and included perhaps a track in Mono to really throw off people. Subtitles are provided in English and French.
- Passaic Mosaic 10:27: As mentioned above, this film was shot on location in Passaic, New Jersey. A very small and laid back town, many of the members contributed to the film from bit roles to production. A heartwarming piece and it really seemed to bring the town together.
- Theatrical Trailer 2:24: The original theatrical trailer. They really should have let a few fans turn in “Sweded” copies of the film and produced a theatrical trailer from that. But perhaps I’m thinking too much into the concept of the film.
Be Kind Rewind is one of those rare comedies. It has a good story with an impressive cast of characters with smart humor and great direction. The more amazing thing is that no single cast member overshadows another despite the names. The disc is very adequate with great video and reasonable audio showing that a 2008 film about a VHS rental store can be crystal clear even when the content probably shouldn’t be. The extras are disappointing since they could have taken this piece of irony so many ways by providing a mono track or fan “sweded” presentations. A commentary would have also been appreciated. In spirit of the film, I recommend this movie, no matter what case or holder it might come in.
- DvdVerdict.com ” As a celebration of the small screen, Be Kind Rewind is tailor-made for home viewing—though it’s too bad the movie won’t be available on VHS as well as DVD, because New Line didn’t do nearly enough with this release to take advantage of the difference. ”
- HomeTheaterForum.com – “These simple, pleasant and imperfect people, whose warmth and genuine curiosity outstrips their needs for more than life presents them, are refreshing.”