It eschews the large laughs expected with a Jack Black vehicle, instead spinning a surrealistic tale of a probably mythical version of Passaic, N.J., and the ways commerce, community and character can become entwined.
Mr. Black plays a somewhat unhinged patron of a local video store -- all tapes -- who, after an ill-conceived attack on a power plant, erases the business's stock of movies. Desperate to save the already faltering store, the shop's lone employee (played by Mos Def) agrees to replace the films with homemade versions.
Be Kind could have easily gone off the rails here, degenerating into an endless stream of pop culture asides, cinematic parodies and blunt-edged gags. Instead, the remanufactured films are a device in a larger story of desperate acts and the ability of said acts to bring a community together.
It's a credit to writer/director Michel Gondry that the film never opts for an easy answer that might wrap up any loose ends. This is a film about complications, and it proceeds with the understanding that not all problems can be fixed, truth is in the eye of the beholder and that the most unlikely of ideas can lead to unexpected surprises.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TITLE: BE KIND, REWIND (NEW LINE HOME VIDEO; $27.98)
DVD EXTRAS: There's an awful lot of entertainment value in the "sweded" movie remakes produced for this film. A gallery of the best is available.
THE VERDICT: **** out of *****