Be Cool Review

While not spectacular, Get Shorty, Barry Sonnenfeld’s satirical commentary on the film industry, had a lot of meta-humor about Hollywood and its similarities to gangster life both in ethics and business savvy. Continuing the story of Chili Palmer, Be Cool seems intent on continuing the satirical links between crime and the commercialized arts but really only succeeds in beating a dead horse, using similar jokes while failing to make any new points. Be Cool seems to be the antithesis to the Ocean’s 11 idea that flooding a film with celebrities can induce quality, almost guaranteeing that the film aims to do nothing but parade the likes of John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Cedric the Entertainer, Dwayne Johnson, Vince Vaughn and more in front of the camera. The movie makes a few amusing points, but otherwise it’s as empty as the celebrity culture it lampoons.

Just when Chili Palmer thinks he’s out, they pull him back in. Sick of the movie biz that caught his eye in Get Shorty, Chili (Travolta) finds his hand forced into the music industry when a friend (James Woods) is gunned down in front of him after telling him about Linda Moon (Christina Milian), an as of yet undiscovered, superstar singer. Chili decides to collaborate with his dead friend’s widow (Uma Thurman) to use her connections within the music industry to launch Linda’s career. However, Linda’s new career comes with a few complications, not the least of which is her prior contract with the somewhat criminal organization led by Sin LaSalle (Cedric) and his bungling henchman Raji (Vaughn). Sin is none too happy to lose Linda with five years left on her contract and so his malice is added to Chili’s struggle to break into the music industry.

There’s something to be said for a film that says “Fuck that!” to the MPAA’s restriction on only using the F-word once if a movie hopes to score a PG-13 rating…and then never uses the word again. Guess what Be Cool is rated. Exactly. Be Cool is filled with small jabs at the professional entertainment industry ranging from one-trick ponies to wannabe gangsters and everything in between. To call Be Cool a mess of clichés is to miss that it’s in fact a comedy whose entire comical premise is derived from the very two-dimensional nature of the LA atmosphere. If all you want the film to do is make a few pithy insider jokes, then Be Cool fits the bill perfectly and then some, but if you want something with a serious message about the fleeting nature of success or the dim-witted politicking from one agent to the next, then Be Cool will leave you cold. F. Gary Gray didn’t direct a bad film, but you have to think that if Sonnenfeld hadn’t gotten his main points across with the first film that he would have come back for the sequel. But he didn’t, and the screenplay’s inability to bring any meritorious themes to table that aren’t overshadowed by the star power becomes glaring.

Star power isn’t a bad thing, and it’s certainly impressive that along with the previously mentioned cast they were able to cram in Andre 3000, the Black Eyed Peas, Steven Tyler, Wyclef Jean, Anna Nicole Smith, RZA, Gene Simmons, Fred Durst, Nicole Scherzinger, Patti LaBelle, Seth Green, Harvey Keitel, Debi Mazar, Danny DeVito (reprising his role as Martin), and more. Unfortunately it’s only there so the audience doesn’t notice how seriously the film lacks in its ability to tell a meaningful story. Be Cool is at its best when it’s making nods to past films like the all-too-obvious Pulp Fiction tribute which, even if it seemed wholly unoriginal to have Travolta and Thurman do another dancing scene, still has more energy than almost every other moment in the film.

Though bland in its scripting, Be Cool has a rather vibrant visual palette and makes for a rich viewing experience in HD. And, as you might expect from a film based in the music industry, there are plenty of musical numbers and sequences so the audio mastering helps a bit there as well.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

Be Cool has brought a fair number of extras with it to Blu-ray including featurettes about the Travolta and Thurman dance scene, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Andre 3000, Christina Milian, and Cedric the Entertainer. Additionally, there’s the typical making-of piece, a gag reel (which is pretty good), deleted scenes (which are not), and a theatrical trailer. However, the cream of the crop in this case is Dwayne Johnson’s in-character music video for “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man”, which is pretty funny.

"Be Cool" is on sale July 5, 2011 and is rated PG13. Comedy. Directed by F Gary Gray. Written by Peter Steinfeld. Starring Cedric The Entertainer, Christina Milian, Danny DeVito, Dwayne Johnson, Harvey Keitel, Vince Vaughn.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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