What's revolutionary about Be Kind Rewind is that, when bringing to life the kitchen sink cinema remakes of Mike, Jerry, and Alma (Mos Def, Jack Black, and a very good Melonie Diaz), Michel Gondry enriches movie screens more than most of 2007's cinematic standard fare. His imagination is akin to Samuel Fuller's declaration that there is nothing that cannot be filmed. Be Kind Rewind's dizzying midpoint sequence where the crew cranks out titles - as varied as Last Tango In Paris to Alone In The Dark - is reason enough to see the film.
Gondry's refusal to mock titles such as Rush Hour 2 and Air Force One is a welcome, and timely, celebration of non-exclusionary film love. It was fitting that Be Kind Rewind got it's release on the weekend of the Oscars (the apex of movie exclusivity), where host Jon Stewart felt the need to insult the Oscar nominated makeup crew, of the already critically beaten-up, Norbit (would a jab at There Will Be Blood or Atonement have been as widely accepted?) Like Hot Fuzz, BKR's references and lifts aren't there for ironic comedy fodder, but as lovable nostalgia meant to tickle your memory and tweak that smile.
An after hours diner discussion about The Lion King is the film's most touching moment. Mos Def, Black, and Diaz play it straight, reaching childlike giddiness without tumbling over-the-top. The scene, placed in between days of chaotic shooting, is a quiet moment that gives pause to the cartoon mayhem and lets the characters touch reality for a second. Theirs is a conversation we can relate too, and when the chef, and the woman in an adjacent booth, chime in, the circle of friends immediately widens.
"Be kind, rewind" eventually transcends the name of a video store, or a slogan across clerk's t-shirts, and becomes a mantra for the community of Passaic, NJ. Near films end, neighbors come together and create a film from the mythical tales of Fats Waller that Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) told Mike as a child. It's Gondry's final, uniting call to slow down, hold on, and, yes, move forward, but be sure to remember the past ... even if it gets exaggerated a bit along the way.