** (out of 5)
March 4, 2005
John Travolta as CHILI PALMER
Uma Thurman as EDIE ATHENS
Vince Vaughn as RAJI
Cedric the Entertainer as SIN LASALLE
Andre Benjamin as DABU
Christina Milian as LINDA MOON
Harvey Keitel as NICK CARR
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I have a friend who ranks “Get Shorty” as one of the best films of all time. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but I will admit that “Get Shorty” was decent. I took him to the advance screening of “Be Cool,” mainly because he begged me to. However, after seeing it, he said that it just made him feel sad.
I could see where he was coming from. “Get Shorty” may not be my favorite movie, but I found it to be clever and unique. And it doesn’t hurt that Hollywood just adores movies that are about itself. A film like “Get Shorty” placated a lot of egos in filmmaking, allowing themselves to make inside industry jokes.
In this sequel, John Travolta returns as shylock film fanatic Chili Palmer. When we last left Chili, he was making inroads into the movie business by strong-arming his way into producing. Now, apparently he’s fed up with the industry and wants out. For some bizarre reason, he decides to go into a new facet of the entertainment industry that is many times more fickle than film – the recording industry.
Chili seeks out a newcomer named Linda Moon (Christina Milian) and steals her away from her overbearing managers Raji (Vince Vaughn) and Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel). Unfortunately, Chili still can’t get her out of her contract. He uses the cover of the indie production company owned by his recently assassinated friend (James Woods) and wife (Uma Thurman) to launch this girl’s career.
Like “The Lost World” sequel to “Jurassic Park,” “Be Cool” is a stellar example of forcing a sequel. There’s no inspiration, no creativity. Just the original writer slamming ideas together to make a buck. And I can’t help but shake the fact that this movie has basically the same plot as “Glitter” – just with a shylock film fanatic-turned movie producer-turned record producer.
Add to the mix, a weirdly inappropriate and unrealistic cameo with Steven Tyler from Aerosmith. Forget the contrived connection he had with Uma Thurman’s character in the past, and forget the fact that Tyler looks like a stroke victim when he tries to act. The biggest problem with this is Chili is trying to launch an R&B artist with Aerosmith’s name as a springboard. I don’t know why they mixed their musical styles here, but at least it was a shorter leap than having her jump start her career from an appearance at a Clay Aiken concert.
Just for fun, I rented “Get Shorty” and watched it again this week, and I was floored at the colossal lack of creativity in “Be Cool.” Practically every joke from the first film is retreaded for “Be Cool.” And the character of Chili Palmer is completely ruined here. I get that he’s grown weary of the film industry because they made bad sequels (probably the only introspective truth to come out of this film), but we never see it happening.
I know filmmakers who have gotten burned out by the industry. I’ve seen huge film geeks quickly get jaded at the whole process by just spending a couple years working at it. So I see where Chili’s feelings could come from. The problem in “Be Cool” is that they never show that happening, and for a character that referenced movies more than Remington Steele, it was hard to accept at face value.
But the filmmakers don’t just rip off “Get Shorty.” They rip off other films as well, including a not-so-subtle scene of John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing at a night club. I admit the two have chemistry, but I much preferred the days when Uma was snorting unrefined heroin and Travolta was plunging a six-inch adrenaline needle through her breastplate.
The only redeeming thing about this movie was The Rock’s portrayal of gay-actor-turned-bodyguard, poking fun at his trademarked raising of the eyebrow. Only when he stepped on screen did I actually take notice. And when a former professional wrestler can grab an audience’s attention from an ensemble of Oscar nominees, there’s a problem.