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Film / Be Kind Rewind

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You name it, we shoot it!

"I will shoot you and I know robot karate."
— Jerry, while attempting to re-enact a scene from RoboCop (1987).

Be Kind Rewind is a 2008 comedy directed by Michel Gondry and starring Jack Black and Mos Def. Mos Def's character, Mike, helps run a video store that stubbornly offers VHS tape rentals regardless of the rise of DVDs. Mike's peculiar friend Jerry (Jack Black) tries to sabotage an electrical substation and nearly electrocutes himself, becoming magnetized in the process. He then walks into the video store, erasing all of the VHS tapes. Angry customers begin to come in complaining, and Mike is at a loss as to how to replace the store's stock on a limited budget. The store has already received threats of foreclosure, which the owner has tried to prevent by getting the building registered as a historical landmark as the birthplace of jazz singer Fats Waller.

The idea soon occurs that Mike and Jerry will reshoot the films themselves, using whatever they have available. They start with ambitious projects such as Ghostbusters (1984) and RoboCop (1987), creating a crazy home video feel they call being "Sweded," claiming that the films are special Swedish imports. The store gathers popularity around the neighborhood, so much so that the FBI anti-piracy warning at the start of the tapes becomes a reality.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: The reason why the Swedes become a hit. The respectable effort and hilarious Stylistic Suck resonated with customers, leading to demand for more.
  • Amateur Film-Making Plot: The plot is that a video store employee accidentally erases the store's entire stock. To make up for it, he enlists his friends to make amateur, "Sweded" remakes of all the blockbusters he destroyed starring themselves.
  • Artistic License – History: Invoked. When the video store owners and the community decided to make a documentary about Fats Waller, they decided that it didn't matter if any of it was true or not.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In the final scene of the film, Jerry, Mike, and Mr. Fletcher convince the neighborhood to help produce a tribute film to Fats Waller's Life, with Mr. Fletcher accepting that they couldn't raise enough to save the building. After the film airs to a small minority, the trio exits the store moments later to the sound of applause, and discover that most of the townsfolk were in the street watching the film through an outside projector. Everyone cheers for them, including the demolition team and the police (who were meant to tear down the establishment for legal reasons).
  • Book Ends:
    • The beginning of the film is a series of black-and-white clips from a documentary showing the life of Fats Waller. They're actually clips from the final movie Mike makes.
    • The event that leads to the main plot is Jerry and Mike sneaking into an electrical substation, which ends badly. The event right before their final show is Jerry and Mike sneaking into a rival movie rental business to borrow its projector, which ends badly.
    • Early on, Mike has trouble understanding a backwards message from Mr. Fletcher until he turns a paper over and sees it through the other side. In the final scene, tons of townsfolk have gathered outside the building because they saw the Fats Waller film through the sheet it was projected on.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: When Jerry is magnetized, one of the films glitched by him moving around is Be Kind Rewind itself, as the picture glitches every time he passes too close to the actual location of the camera.
  • Casanova Wannabe: When looking for a girl to be in a kissing scene for their movie, Jerry is a complete lech towards his first choice, and insults her when she's too busy to work and volunteers her sister Alma in her place.
  • Casting Gag: Jack Black starred in King Kong (2005)... and he's playing the titular character in the Sweded 1933 film. Sigourney Weaver plays the attorney who protests about copyright issues and she also starred in Ghostbusters (1984), the first film seen to be Sweded, and the one that gets the most screentime.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Sigourney Weaver, who plays a copyright attorney, was one of the stars of Ghostbusters (1984), the first movie to be Sweded.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The supposed patron who came in all the way from New York? He's actually a federal agent who later shows up to confiscate the store's collection of Swedes.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Jerry. He's the one that comes up with the idea of sweding the movies after accidentally erasing them, and then completely misremembers most of the key plot points when filming the recreations.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Jerry, again, as the whole plot kicks off with him infiltrating an electrical substation because he's convinced it's melting his brain.
  • Decade-Themed Filter: Invoked when the community comes together to film a "documentary" about the life of musician Fats Waller. Filming with their camera's black & white mode on, they recreate the visual effect of a silent film with a contraption made of a fan spinning in front of the camera (to mimic the frame rate of early films) and strings (to mimic the striations/ damage on the film stock).
  • Generic Graffiti: Averted. Mike and Jerry are working on a mural of Fats Waller at the beginning of the film.
  • Hand Wave: No real explanation as to why or how Jerry was magnetized instead of electrocuted after his stunt at the electrical substation or how it was cured by drinking Alma's remedy and peeing it away, not that it actually matters.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Jerry is oblivious to why the predominately Black neighborhood has an issue with him in Blackface and insists that he can play a better Fats Waller than Mike.
  • Irony: Even though the premise of this film is about a video store that only rents VHS and refuses to carry DVDs, this movie did not get a VHS release.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Such as magnetizing a human.
  • Lives in a Van: Jerry's home is a beat-up trailer in the junk yard he works in.
  • Logo Joke: For European prints, the Pathe logo was Sweded. (Sadly, the US version just has the plain old New Line Cinema logo.)
  • Mood Whiplash: Shockingly. The movie actually points out that piracy is illegal and the place gets shut down. Ouch.
  • No Budget: The in-universe Sweded films are made on a dime budget with rudimentary props and the same set of actors.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: After Jerry gets magnetized, the images warps momentarily as if the camera itself was being affected by Jerry.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • First, watch the trailer. Then watch the movie and realize that the trailer cut out an ENTIRE MAJOR SUBPLOT involving the video store's foreclosure.
    • The trailers used "homemade" VHS covers for the Sweded movies instead of the real ones.
  • Noodle Incident: The rival video store owner apparently has to sleep in the hard porn section of his own store for reasons that were never disclosed.
  • Parental Substitute: How Mike sees Mr. Fletcher.
  • Playing a Tree: Alma's acting experience before joining Mike and Jerry is being a refrigerator in a play.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: When a group of hoodlums request a few "Sweded" films and The Lion King pops up, everyone immediately stares down the Scary Black Man. It was Alma.
  • Shout-Out: Tons upon tons. You've got the two leads Sweding up famous films, including Ghostbusters (1984), 2001: A Space Odyssey, Driving Miss Daisy, The Lion King (1994), King Kong (1933), Men in Black, RoboCop (1987), and Boyz n the Hood.
  • So Bad, It's Good: The Sweded films are this in-universe.
  • Stylistic Suck:
    • The Sweded movies, duh. Sometimes the Sweded films cross into In-Universe Narm Charm territory due to the hilarious and clever ways in which they're recreated.
    • They even Sweded one of the trailers, and one of the logos for the European prints.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Mike and Jerry start out as just a duo, but for their second film, recruit a girl named Alma (played by Melonie Diaz) to play the female role; she quickly becomes an equal partner in their schemes.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Lampshaded. The copyright lawyers come and destroy all the Sweded movies, and are treated like monsters by the town; the lawyers chuckle to themselves, "Yeah, like we're the bad guys," making the point that the heroes are on the wrong side of the law.
  • Would Not Hit a Girl: The group of customers that demand their own sweded films tell Alma she's lucky they don't hit women upon confronting her.
  • Wraparound Background: Used to film the Sweded Men in Black tunnel scene.