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MGM Studios DVD presents
"Stop hatin', start participatin'. Come on, twinkle twinkle, baby, twinkle twinkle."
DVD ReviewEven the most open-minded of movie buffs has to be wary about seeing a John Travolta vehicle these days. Despite his amazing comeback performance in Pulp Fiction, he's delivered nothing but annoying, wooden performances ever since. It seems like Travolta takes on each and every script that comes his way (the number of which appears to be dwindling of late), regardless of the quality. From Phenomenon to Basic, and the rock-bottom that was Battlefield Earth, dud after dud have littered this once (at least somewhat) prolific actor's filmography.
Travolta does it again in Be Cool, taking a decent premise and running it into the ground with a completely lifeless performance. He seems completely disinterested in the character of Chili Palmer that he brought to the big screen initially in 1995's Get Shorty. The most amazing thing is that, despite the similar look and clothing, the character that Travolta is playing here has very few of the qualities that we knew and loved from from that earlier movie. It's rare that a character can be on-screen during most of the film and still seem like a bit player, but that's definitely the case with Chili here. Oh, and if I have to see Travolta dance in a movie again, all bets are off!
The best word to describe Be Cool is "pointless." Sure, we have some semblance of a plot, but this is mostly two hours of A and B list actors showing up against type, and sleepwalking through their roles. Aside from The Rock and Vince Vaughn, everyone appears to be just picking up a paycheck, going through the motions and expending little energy. F. Gary Gray's direction is equally lifeless. He spends way too much time on close-ups of these big-time actors, and not enough on crafting at least a semblance of a unique visual experience that might have brought things up a notch.
Elmore Leonard wrote both novels that Get Shorty and Be Cool are based on, and I find it hard to believe that the latter novel is as bad as this film. The story finds Chili Palmer back on the scene, but this time in the music industry. His friend and record mogul, Tommy Athens (James Woods) is shot and killed right in front of Chili's eyes, leaving his widow, Edie Athens (Uma Thurman), to run the financially-strapped record company.
Chili was able to get a valuable tip on an up-and-coming singer from Tommy before he was killed. Linda Moon (Christina Milian) is under contract with the wannabe gangster music exec, Raji (Vaughn), who has a veteran partner (Harvey Keitel) and a homosexual bodyguard (The Rock). Dragging Linda away from Raji and company is tough enough, but, soon the Russian mob enters the picture, along with rap producer Sin (Cedric the Entertainer), to whom Tommy owed quite a bit of money before he died.
It's difficult to figure out just exactly what the point of all this is. Is it a wrong-place-at-the-wrong time bit of ensemble slapstick comedy, a rip on the music industry, or a little bit of both? Get Shorty was able to take some jabs at the film industry, but this was done through an intelligent, darkly funny screenplay, and typically non-comedic actors at the top of their game. Instead of Gene Hackman, Dennis Farina, and James Gandolfini, we get the likes of Cedric the Entertainer, Harvey Keitel (who should stick to drama), and Uma Thurman, who has never looked better, but is uninspired. Danny DeVito returns as actor Martin Weir, but his appearance is way too brief, and Rene Russo's charm and sexy presence is sorely missed.
The movie's lone redeeming quality is Vince Vaughn's performance. His Raji is so clueless and buffoon-like in his attempts to be a tall Eminem that he never realizes the huge mistakes he is making and is basically putty in Chili Palmer's hands. Vaughn takes Raji's pea brain and runs with it, going way over-the-top, but in a good way that will leave his cult of fans begging for more and maybe even lining up even earlier for the upcoming The Wedding Crashers.
Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D
Image Transfer Review: There aren't any problems to report with this 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, which is bursting with color and sharp, finely detailed images. Given that this film was in theaters only a couple of months ago, anything less would have been a huge disappointment, but such mistakes have happened before. The overly tan fleshtones are natural, blending in very well with the rest of the well-rendered colors. Shadow and contrast levels are also solid, making for a very complete overall presentation.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also quite good, making excellent use of the surrounds with nice directional effects. This is a music-heavy production, and each song sounds great, thanks to very aggressive bass that is never drowned out by other sound effects. The bass is integrated nicely into the overall mix, which includes crystal clear dialogue.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Beauty Shop, Get Shorty, Barbershop 2: Back in Business
14 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: Keep Case
A whopping 14 Deleted Scenes are up next, all of which would have made the film even longer than it already is, which is way too long. A funny Gag Reel is also around, along with a music video for You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man by The Rock as Elliot Wilhelm. Portions of this clip are shown in the film, but here we have the whole morbidly funny thing.
A series of five Close Up featurettes are available, which focus on individual aspects of the film, including Dance Partners, The Rock, Andre 3000, Cedric the Entertainer, and Christina Milian. This is basically more interview and on-set footage, but the pieces on Christina Milian and Andre 3000 are definitely worth checking out.
The original theatrical trailer for Be Cool is also on board, along with some previews for other MGM releases.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsWhether Be Cool is the final nail in the coffin of John Travolta's career or not remains to be seen. This sequel to that Elmore Leonard adaptation seems to have been a mistake from the get-go, but even though the actors didn't have much of a screenplay to work with from the beginning, a bit more effort on their (and especially Travolta's) part might have made for a better film. MGM's quick turnaround DVD is rather impressive, exhibiting excellent audio and video and a decent extras collection.
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