Originally created 03/03/05

Movie review: Be Cool

Be Cool suffers from Ocean's 12 disease, in which those involved in the sequel appear to be having a far more enjoyable experience than those of us watching it.

It must have been fun being cool -- cruising around L.A. beauty spots with your movie-star buddies, dressing in fun, goofy outfits, grooving to Black Eyed Peas, hanging out with Steven Tyler at a Lakers' game and then singing with Aerosmith on stage (though how long has it been since Aerosmith was cool?).

And how about The Rock? He gets to pretend to be gay, which makes for many tiresome jokes about him being, you know, gay.

That scene where he dances in snug slacks while slapping his bottom in delight is, however, kind of funny.

Be Cool is a disposable follow-up, 10 long years later, to Get Shorty.

Barry Sonnenfeld's original was a zippy, sassy entertainment. This one, directed by F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Friday), has its moments -- there are many Name Actors here getting goofy, so it's not a total loss.

But it's pretty much summed up in the first words uttered by John Travolta's Chili Palmer: "Ugh -- Sequels." (It's just one of the many in-jokes scattered clunkily throughout Be Cool.)

Travolta, however, is movie-star magnetic and pretty much bulletproof as Chili, the only person in the whole story who actually is cool. In the original, he was a mobster loan shark who wanted to break into the movie biz. Now he's a movie guy trying to break in the music biz, working with a beautiful new widow played by Uma Thurman.

His Chili is more mellow than he was 10 years ago; he's even avuncular and courtly as he tries to help a Beyonce-ish singer (Christina Milian) and flirts, ever so gentlemanly, with Thurman, whose first scene finds her in only one part of her bikini.

You've seen the ads where Travolta and Thurman dance, much as they did in Pulp Fiction (hey, another in-joke!). It is laid-back and sexy, though it's as tacked-on as those scenes in the beach-blanket bingo movies where the teens would start jiving on the sand.

We'll take it, though: Travolta and Thurman are so mellow together, so substantial, that they seem to be the only grown-ups in this movie, watching, bemused, while the children act all silly.

That would include a rogue's gallery of low-lifes played by The Rock, Harvey Keitel, Andre Benjamin from Outkast, Cedric the Entertainer, Danny DeVito and Robert Pastorelli.

Special mention must be made of Vince Vaughn, who plays yet another white guy pretending to be hip-hop cool. Dressed in red velvety sweats and talking about "mad respect," he's meant to be annoying. But trust us when we say that a little of him goes an awfully long way. And there's a lot of him.

The plot, meanwhile, is a convoluted thing involving Russian mobsters, hip-hop thugs, a crooked record exec, some cops, a hit-man and the kitchen sink. It doesn't mean a thing, nor is it meant to.

matt.soergel@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4082

Be Cool

2 stars out of 4

Who's it for? Fans of the original shouldn't consider this essential viewing, though it has its moments.

Credits: Starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer and Harvey Keitel. Directed by F. Gary Gray. Based on Elmore Leonard's novel.

Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.

Family guide: PG-13. Violence, some profanity.


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