Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual references
Run Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Only crazy rubber-faced Jack Black could pull off such a spoofy, overly-eager slapdash of a project.
It’s classic Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) – equal parts comedy, fantasy and sloppy sentiment. Jerry (Black) is a misfit mechanic who hangs at a Passaic, New Jersey video store owned by super Fats Waller fan Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover). The shop is manned by mild-mannered Mike (be-still-my-heart Mos Def) who wouldn’t harm a flea.
A ludicrous accident at a local power plant causes Jerry to be “magnetized”, at which point he has only to step foot in the video store to wipe out the entire collection with his vanquishing microwaves.
So far, so dumb. Desperate to keep the disaster from Fletcher – who’s on the road seeking financing to save his dilapidated building from the evil clutches of a rampant real estate empire – Mike and Jerry hit on a plan to recreate the tapes by creating cheesy, low-budget remakes.
With let’s-put-on-a-show bonhomie the pair mounts restorations of “Ghostbusters”, “Rush Hour” “Boyz N the Hood” and “The Lion King” among others; short, cheap and surprisingly user-friendly. Surprisingly funny, too.
The films, inexplicably called “swedes”, are a hit with the renters, who are recruited in droves to star in the satirical indies as well as running camera and crew.
The buzz is killed when the law intervenes, claiming piracy and bootlegging and forcing the little video store that could into desperate straits.
Gondry’s playful style is wildly fractured, a crazy pastiche of hilarious (zany movie-making montages), corny, and didactic. I’m not typically a Gondry fan though I’ll cop to some chuckles over some clever jabs at the cutting-edge sincerity of indie filmmaking.
Climax is supremely touching, loosely tying it together on a good, not great, note.