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BE COOL

2005, dir. F. Gary Gray
118 min., Rated PG-13.
Starring: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre 3000, the Rock, Danny DeVito, Steven Tyler, more of the same

Review by Justin Patterson

I'm a fan of the 1995 adaption of the Elmore Leonard novel Get Shorty. I loved the book, as I do most of the stuff that Leonard has written. His works translate so easily onto the big screen. After all, this is the man responsible for Jackie Brown, Out Of Sight, Mr. Majestyk and many others that I personally happen to love. It seemed like a safe bet for a movie night. I knew the characters, I knew the author, I like his style and I appreciate the things that he has done for American cinema. Soooo, I took out my lady friend and we went to the movies. She thought it was funny and entertaining as hell.

I thought that this movie was a piece of smelly, steaming shit. As normal Hollywood stuff goes, it was about average. Compared to Get Shorty, though, this was just a pathetic attempt to fulfill a contractual obligation, or something.

The sheer coolness and confidence of Chili Palmer, loan shark turned movie producer, has been turned into a farce. The people involved in the making of this film, including the writer and actors and director, knew that this was a sequel to a film that has achieved some kind of cult status. When Elmore Leonard penned the sequel, he almost gleefully made fun of the idea of creating a follow-up to a well-made book and movie. When the film was made, though, that playfulness and fun were translated into a hack job of inside jokes, caricature-like acting, and predictable preying on the obvious mindlessness of the typical audience member. Unfortunately, by paying full price to see this thing, I regretfully take my place in the throng of the mindless and duped.

The plot is just a hack continuation of the life and times of Chili Palmer, a man who now appears to know that he is too cool for school. The cool and confidence that we appreciated has been translated into simple two-dimensional character with no depth. The incredible cast of stars that made the first film work so well falls flat in this rendition, making it painfully obvious that the Hollywood Formula has infected almost every nook and cranny of the previously creative town of Los Angeles. The soundtrack, like the film itself, is a pale shadow of the brilliant tunes that so complimented. The villains are stock. The supporting players took their parts directly from the book without imbuing them with any semblance of substance.

There are a few redeeming graces. A few. Cedric the Entertainer is lackluster but okay as the rich man who decided to create some street cred and get into the world of rap. The chemistry between Uma and John from Pulp Fiction is gone, but it was genuinely fun to see them working together again. Andre 3000 did a good job channeling the Wayans brothers (well, most of them) as a rapper who knows that he's a little over the edge. Perhaps the most entertaining aspects of this film are Vince Vaughn and the Rock. Vince Vaughn is Raji, a white guy who desperately wants to be black. He's annoying as hell, but plays the part so consistently that he's both believeable and makes you want to bitch-slap him. The Rock plays Elliot, a flaming queen who is working as a bodyguard for Raji. Seeing him (almost joyfully) sink himself into the role of a very gay, very large man who loves singing cowboy songs is lots of fun in a simple, sophomoric kind of way. Like Vaughn, the Rock plays the role so consistently that he manages to hold audience interest, even when it seems that the film's goal is to empty the theater.

I cannot express the depth of my disappointment in this film. The first one was so good, the cast was so great, the writing was so witty and pithy and memorable. I think of the cast of this one: Travolta, Thurman, Vaughn, Cedric, Andre 3000, Steven Tyler, Robert Pastorelli (who later died of a heroin overdose, probably after seeing the dailies), Christina Milian, Harvey Keitel, the Rock, Danny DeVito, James Woods. . . you would think that such a movie would be unsinkable. Instead, it was the Titanic on the big screen. Spare yourself the two hours of "uncomfortable silences." Save your money. Rent it when it's cheap. Or, just ask others to recap it for you. Just don't bother to take any time out of your life to check it out. Your time would be better spent playing pinochle with a senile octogenarian who doesn't know you and pees in the bed.

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