- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2008

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, click on www.commonsensemedia.org.

‘Be Kind Rewind’

Rating: PG-13

Common Sense Media: On. For ages 12 and older.

*** (out of five stars)

Running time: 101 minutes

Common Sense review: Jack Black and Mos Def star as best friends Jerry and Mike, who live in Passaic, N.J., and spend their time working in Be Kind Rewind, a small video store (VHS only) owned by Mike’s former guardian, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover). While Mr. Fletcher — who is trying to save his building from being condemned — is on a trip, Jerry gets unintentionally magnetized by the power plant he lives next to and accidentally erases all of the tapes in the store. Desperate not to lose customers, the duo decides to film no-budget, amateurish versions of a few movies for their customers. Much to their astonishment, the redone videos are a hit, and soon people are lining up to get their favorite movies “Sweded” (redone) by Jerry, Mike and their hired leading lady, Alma (Melonie Diaz).

Devotees of eccentric French director Michel Gondry may be slightly disappointed that “Rewind” isn’t the mind-bending masterpiece that 2004’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was for many critics and fans, but it’s still dreamlike in many ways. That people would embrace and participate in silly remakes of blockbuster or cult movies is definitely far-fetched, as is the sense that Passaic is a sleepy urban town that folks get “stuck in,” rather than a suburb of New York City. Forgiving the believability of the setting or the circumstances (Who runs a VHS-only video store?), the film is, like most of Mr. Gondry’s work, charming and endearing, with most of the laughs stemming predictably from Mr. Black’s manic behavior and Mos Def’s pitch-perfect straight man work.

Mr. Glover, who usually doesn’t look like a man in his 60s, is delightful as the store owner who slowly comes to accept and contribute to the new business model of custom movies, even playing Morgan Freeman to smitten neighbor Mia Farrow’s Jessica Tandy in a Sweded version of “Driving Miss Daisy.” And Hollywood newcomer Miss Diaz (“A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints”) is adorable as the guys’ go-to actress/director/cinematographer. Like Alma, the film is pleasant and at times moving, while still remaining lighthearted and sweet. Those looking for an introspective treatise on love and life should rewind Mr. Gondry’s past films, but those open to a funny, less-probing comedy will leave the theater wanting more of the Sweded films.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that the stars of this comedy — Mr. Black and Mos Def — are both extremely popular with teens and even tweens. Happily, the movie is age-appropriate for both groups (particularly teens). Families can talk about what the film is saying about Hollywood movies. Can a redone, amateurish 20-minute version of a movie be just as good as — or better than — the original? Or is the point that, in reshooting the films with other movie fans, everyone becomes part of the films and the community? Children: Does a movie have to be believable to be good?

Sexual content: Shots of kissing during scenes from various refilmed movies. In one conversation about “how much action” the main characters get, Mr. Fletcher makes a somewhat crude joke.

Language alert: There’s some language, but not as much as in most PG-13 films.

Violence alert: In one scene, Jerry is magnetized by a power plant, but it’s not disturbing, just funny. Mr. Fletcher roughly holds onto a punky teen while admonishing him. Pretend violence in the reshot films.

Social behavior alert: The entire community unites for a common goal: to make a film and celebrate how it ties them to the neighborhood’s history — real or imagined.

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