Blu-Ray Review: Be Cool

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A disgrace to the character of Chil Palmer, this uninspired follow-up to the far superior Get Shorty is a waste of time for everybody involved. I get why they made the film. Palmer was a terrific character in Get Shorty, and Travolta’s performance just oozed “cool.” It’s only natural to think that people would want more. Unfortunately, all the attempts at being cool feel forced this time around, and the entire movie becomes a tedious exercise in mediocrity.

The film opens with one of those self-referential conversations that films about Hollywood seem to think are so clever. Palmer, a successful film producer, is discussing his disappointment with sequels, hitting the audience over the head with the “subtlety” of the fact that this is a sequel. I love meta humor, but simply referencing yourself is not funny in and of itself. And it was all downhill from there.

After a record producer played by James Woods is killed in front of Palmer, he decides that he’s done with movies, and that he’s going to take over his dead friend’s business. I guess the thinking was that this would give the filmmakers plenty of opportunity to leave the film industry behind, satirizing the music industry this time around. This could have been a good idea if they actually had anything to say about the music industry. Instead we’re treated to two excrutiating hours of noise about white people acting black, Russian mobsters, slimy record producers and on and on.

Somehow, director F. Gary Gray got a lot of big names to appear in this film. However, the only truly inspired casting was The Rock as a gay bodyguard with aspirations of acting. His monologue from Bring It On was one of the only genuinely funny moments in the film. However, there are so many big names in the film, almost nobody stands out. It takes a particular lack of talent to make a film with performers as diverse as John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keital, Danny DeVito, Vince Vaughn, etc. and make them either forgettable, or worse, annoying.

Particular credit has to be given to Vaughn for creating one of the most grating characters I’ve seen on film in a long time. The joke of his character is that he’s white, but he acts black. I’ve never found that premise for a character to be funny, but this is just a pathetic performance. With a high pitched voice and nasally laugh not that far from the Weasels in Roger Rabbit, every moment on screen with this character is a disaster. And he gets a lot of screentime.

I really don’t know who the supposed audience is for this film. It’s not funny, the story isn’t compelling, and the characters aren’t interesting. There’s some novelty in seeing Thurman and Travolta dancing together for the first time since Pulp Fiction, and I got a small amount of enjoyment seeing the real Hollywood locations where the film was shot. But these small pleasures were derived from recognition of moments outside of the film. Being reminded of Pulp Fiction doesn’t make the moment as good as Pulp Fiction, and recognizing locations that I have visited isn’t as fun as actually being there.

At least the picture quality is good. MGM has been releasing some of their older titles lately, and this is the best looking one I’ve seen so far. There are a lot of sequences at night, as well as in darkly lit clubs, arenas, etc. The picture looks really sharp, with vibrant colors and detailed lighting. I’ll give the filmmakers credit for making the world these characters inhabit at least look glamorous.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many extras on the disc. There’s a “documentary” running just over 20 minutes that is comprised of almost nothing but clips from the film, intercut with the cast and crew giving vague anecdotes and compliments to themselves. There are some deleted scenes, a trailer, the full music video from the film featuring The Rock’s character, and some short vignettes about the characters. Nothing too spectacular, and from what I can tell, none of it is new for this release.

In watching the film, it really feels as if the filmmakers thought they were making something special. The groundwork was there, but it just didn’t come together. Get Shorty was a great film, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. I wish I could say the same for this one, but unfortunately, there is nothing cool about this disasterous sequel.