I have a theory, often debunked by my friends that every movie that has John Travolta dancing is, at the least, decent. Let’s take a look at the examples: Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Pulp Fiction, all have Travolta tripping the light fantastic. Battlefield Earth, hmm, no dancing. Get my point? Maybe the makers of Be Cool, the much belated sequel to Get Shorty, agreed with me. That would explain why the film almost goes out of its way to insert a scene where Travolta and Uma Thurman decide to mingle on the dance floor.
The plot of Be Cool, authored by writer Elmore Leonard, follows the adventures of always cool and collected Chili Palmer (Travolta). Chili decides that he has had enough of the movie business and instead looks for projects in the music field. Chili ends up backing an undiscovered vocal talent, Linda Moon, played by the amazingly beautiful Christina Milian. While trying to make a hit record, Chili meets a few friends, but many more foes in the forms of cutthroat record producers, hitmen, and the Russian mafia.
Most of the film is self-reverential and most of the comedy comes from the movie playing off itself or Hollywood standards. Travolta starts off the film by saying “I hate sequels.” Most of the star-studded cast fill roles that they have been typecast into. Thurman, Cedric the Entertainer, and Harvey Keitel, and even Andre 3000 all play off their stereotypical characters. While often movies with so many inside jokes tend to fail as they distance themselves or talk down to the audience, Be Cool, for the most part makes it work.
More noticeable performances are delivered by Vince Vaughn, who plays a record manager who tries to act black, but miserably fails. Vaughn, as usual, fills his character with such evil glee we really aren’t too bothered when he encounters a rather uncomfortable experience with fireworks.
One of the only actors that fills a role that he isn’t typecast into is The Rock, who plays Vaughn’s bodyguard, Elliot Wilhelm. The catch with Elliot is that everyone knows that he is incredibly gay, except himself. It is pretty funny to see The Rock living in an apartment filled with Cher posters. In one of the film’s best scenes, The Rock stands in front of a mirror checking out his red sequenced boots for an uncomfortably long time and constantly comments on how “scorching” he looks.
Steven Tyler also shows up in a cameo. Unfortunately, this is a little distracting due to the fact that Tyler is so incredibly weird looking. Don’t get me wrong, I love Aerosmith, but currently Tyler looks like he just escaped from government custody somewhere around Roswell, New Mexico.
Be Cool’s biggest flaw is that it tends to go on too long. The movie is more or less two hours, very long for a comedy. While the jokes are pretty funny, they often come in spurts with a little too much time in between. Also shame on director F. Gary Gray for some sloppy filmmaking. In the music numbers with Tyler and Millian, obvious cameras can be seen hanging over the crowd in some shots. Be Cool’s other shortcoming is that, while it is an enjoyable film, it still pales in comparison to its predecessor, Get Shorty, to which comparisons are unavoidable.
I might be a little overzealous in my praise of Be Cool since it will probably be superseded by another comedy this year. However, after two months of suffering through movies like Cursed, The Wedding Date, and, well, you get the picture, it was refreshing to finally see a movie that was at least trying to be good. While nowhere near comedic masterpiece, Be Cool is certainly worth checking out, if not in the theater, then at least a few months from now when it shows up on DVD.
Archived article by Mark Rice
Sun Staff Writer