Be Kind Rewind is the latest offering from the French director Michel Gondry, best known for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and his innovative promos for bands such as the White Stripes, whom he animated with the clever use of Lego.
As always with this wilfully whimsical auteur, the storyline isn't likely to be mistaken for social realism. Tom Wilkinson, who appeared in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, described Gondry's approach as "rather unorthodox", which is rather an understatement.
The rapper Mos Def stars as Mike, who's left temporarily in charge of Be Kind Rewind, an anachronistic VHS-only video-rental store threatened with closure in order to make way for a new housing development.
Unfortunately for Mike, his manic pal Jerry (Jack Black) unwittingly destroys the entire shop's stock after a failed attempt to sabotage an electrical plant next door to his trailer home leaves him heavily magnetised. Problems arise for the pair when a customer, Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow), requests a copy of Ghostbusters, a film she has never seen. So they frantically re-create it on the sort of budget that would make the average guerrilla film-maker look like James Cameron.
Soon their improvised version is a neighbourhood word-of-mouth hit. A female lead is recruited, and spoofs of other former box-office hits such as Robocop and King Kong are churned out and enjoy similar success.
From the limited footage we see, their efforts aren't too far from the kind of oddity that occasionally finds a fleeting cult status on YouTube. Within days, punters are queuing round the block to get their hands on the latest Mike and Jeff product, but the course of ultra-DIY film-making doesn't run smoothly for long. The video store's owner, Mr Fletcher (Danny Glover), returns, and a hotshot Hollywood lawyer (Sigourney Weaver) arrives complaining of copyright theft and orders the offending works to be crushed under a steamroller.
It looks like the end of the enterprise, but the possibility of a feel-good finale is set up when Mike and Jerry try to galvanise locals and save the store by embarking on their first original project, a documentary about Mr Fletcher's hero, Fats Waller.
Be Kind Rewind is Gondry's most accessible film to date, and while anyone who has been immune to his previous movies is unlikely to be converted, in an age of franchise prequels and sequels, fans of leftfield cinema should find it refreshing to see something so idiosyncratic pitch up at their local multiplex.
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