Director Michel Gondry's films - 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', 'The Science of Sleep' - could never be faulted for lacking imagination and 'Be Kind Rewind' is no exception. It manages to be Gondry's most accessible film to date, without losing his trademark visual flair and sense of childlike wonderment.
We follow Jerry (Black) and Mike (Mos Def), who through Jerry's hair-brained scheme of trying to sabotage the power plant, has become magnetised and erased all the tapes in the video store Be Kind Rewind, where Mike works. Not wanting to fail in the eyes of father-figure and boss Mr Fletcher (Glover), Jerry and Mike set about filming their own versions of the movie classics that people want to rent.
At first they just wanted to fool Ms Kimberly (Farrow) a loyal customer, who has an eagle eye on the place in Mr Fletcher's absence. However, their charming, zero-budget flicks quickly become popular with the town, and soon people are queuing in droves for their unusual take on the blockbusters. Along the way they recruit Alma (Diaz) from the neighbourhood laundrette, who helps with their reworkings of such classics as 'Ghostbusters', 'Driving Miss Daisy' and 'Rush Hour 2'.
Cue the cardboard cut-out charm that makes this movie such a success. The set almost seems like it's heaving with an array of slapdash props. The cash starts flowing in from Jerry and Mike's films, but trouble rears its ugly head in the form of a team of lawyers sent from Hollywood (one played with panache by Weaver) who pull them up on copyright infringement and destroy the movies they have made to date. And on top of that, they discover that Mr Fletcher's building is set to be demolished in favour of modern condominiums if he doesn't meet health and safety standards.
Luckily, the community band together and make a wonderfully spirited film of their own creation...
Jack Black has toned down his usual over-the-top antics in favour of a more restrained performance, and he and Mos Def make a loveable, if unlikely duo. Mos Def's uptight geek persona would win over the coldest of hearts, and thankfully there is no tacked-on romance with Alma.
The plot as a whole is underdeveloped, but Gondry and Co more than make up for it in the infectious joy they show in the art of film-making. Although ultimately not as affecting as previous works of Gondry's like 'Human Nature' and 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', this is a sweet, endearing film, with the sentiment that films belong to the people. The ending, moving without crossing the line into unbearable schmaltz, underlines the power of film to bring people together.