Friday, March 25, 2005

Be Cool

BE COOL (F. Gary Gray, 2005)

Ten years after playing a shylock turned movie executive in GET SHORTY, John Travolta returns as Chili Palmer in BE COOL. Chili is tiring of the movie business and decides he wants to try his hand in the music industry. He finds a star in the making in Linda Moon, an R&B diva played by Christina Milian, but she already has an onerous multi-year contract that can’t be broken. Chili takes on her cause anyway, which invites rival music execs to send hit men after him.

The harder you try to be cool, the more you fail. BE COOL attempts to look effortless in seeming hip, but the wink-wink, nudge-nudge jokes about sequels, Hollywood, and the music world come off as familiar and self-congratulatory. Many of the actors preen for the camera, sometimes in amusing ways, but the same jokes get flogged repeatedly. Vince Vaughn’s wannabe hip-hopper and The Rock’s gay bodyguard with dreams of acting stardom get some funny moments--The Rock’s performance of a “monologue” from BRING IT ON is one of the better bits--but how many times do they need to mention that The Rock does that thing with his eyebrow or have Vaughn spit out a string of phony sounding slang? F. Gary Gray’s film has too many characters and convoluted storylines to build to a satisfying conclusion. The lax pacing and inessential scenes give this the feel of a film that could have used another trip or two through the editing room. The satire of the music business isn’t exactly razor-tongued. Here’s a film that’s too inside to take some hard swings at its own. With appearances from Steven Tyler and Aerosmith, Outkast’s AndrĂ© 3000, and The Black Eyed Peas, BE COOL is more of an affectionate ribbing than a full-blast send-up of the industry.

Grade: D+

(Review first aired on the March 15, 2005 NOW PLAYING)

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