Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.5
United Kingdom/USA, 2008. New Line Cinema, Partizan Films, Partizan, Focus Features. Screenplay by Michel Gondry. Cinematography by Ellen Kuras. Produced by Georges Bermann, Julie Fong, Michel Gondry. Music by Jean-Michel Bernard. Production Design by Dan Leigh. Costume Design by Rahel Afiley, Kishu Chand. Film Editing by Jeff Buchanan.
In this unholy mess of a film, Mos Def manages a failing video store in a run-down New Jersey tenement for his honorary adoptive father (Danny Glover). Jack Black is his best friend, a junkyard worker who tries to sabotage the power plant he suspects of giving him constant headaches and ends up electrocuting himself instead. The next time he goes into the video store, a place where the modern world of DVD has yet to arrive, Black accidentally renders all the VHS tapes blank.
This is a problem because Glover is out of town trying to save his condemned building, which he claims once housed Fats Waller, from being torn down, and his dear friend Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow) is on her way to the store to pick up a copy of Ghostbusters. If she sees anything amiss, she’ll report back to the boss at once, so these guys have to think up a plan quick, and they do: why not make their own versions of each movie in the store using their video camera? Pretty soon enough people see their “Sweded” versions of films, co-starring Melonie Diaz from the dry cleaners around the corner, and the lineups begin to form around the block.
Michel Gondry’s wretched film longs to make a plea for the modern cinema to put the personal touch back on the screen, displaying the irony of audiences flocking to these sweet, modest renderings of popular Hollywood tales instead of the overproduced, phony entertainments they usually pay for. The film takes far too long to get its plot going, however, and where it wants to be spontaneous and whimsical it only manages to be unfocused and moronic, with a sentimental ending that feels tacked on from a different movie.