November 7, 2005
F. Gary Gray,
Starring: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, André Benjamin, Steven Tyler, Robert Pastorelli, Christina Milian, Paul Adelstein, Debi Mazar, Harvey Keitel, The Rock, Danny DeVito, James Woods, ,
After the success of Get Shorty (1995) as a novel and a film, Elmore Leonard wrote a sequel entitled Be Cool with the notion of it being turned into a film as well (his books read almost like screenplays anyway). It has and with the hope of lightning striking twice. Sadly, two of the elements that made the first film work so well are missing: Scott Frank’s smart screenplay and Barry Sonnenfeld’s confident, stylish direction.
Chili Palmer (Travolta) is tired of the movie business and disillusioned after making a sequel for all the wrong reasons. A record producer (Woods) asks him to make a movie about his life and the corrupt music industry. He’s not interested but after seeing a Russian mobster kill the man (and Chili’s car no less) he’s intrigued. Chili doesn’t know anything about the music business but he does know talent when he sees it: Linda Moon (Milian), a young, up-and-coming singer.
He’s moved by her dreams and aspirations of making it big. He also feels protective of her—especially from her idiot manager, Roger (Vaughn), a white guy who thinks and acts like he’s black. Chili’s way into the music biz is by hooking up with the record producer’s widow (Thurman).
In the first seven minutes, we are hit with many references and badly repeated gags from Get Shorty which does not bode well. The film trots out tired stereotypes like the white guy who acts black—Vaughn’s Roger. His shtick gets real tiresome real fast. Pretty soon you’re praying that his annoying character will get whacked.
The teaming up of John Travolta and Uma Thurman is an obvious attempt to recapture the chemistry they had in Pulp Fiction (1994). They even dance together again which feels tired and forced. Be Cool is simply a rehash of a rehash whereas Quentin Tarantino’s movie made it seemed fresh and exciting.
F. Gary Gray’s direction is competent but lacks any of the flare that he showed in his remake of The Italian Job (2003). Where Get Shorty had its own catchy rhythm and style (like a shark it was constantly in motion), Be Cool feels bland and uninspired in both content and style. Structurally, it is basically a retread of Get Shorty but with the music biz instead of the movie biz: Thurman’s character replaces Rene Russo’s character, Chili is forced to drive around in an uncool car, The Rock plays the same kind of bodyguard role as James Gandolfini did and so on.
The Rock is the most pleasant surprise in the entire movie as a gay bodyguard who dreams of being an actor. He steals every scene he’s in and is genuinely funny with natural comedic timing. There is a scene where his character auditions in front of Chili with a scene from Bring It On (2000) that is hilarious because The Rock is willing to go all the way and is not afraid to make fun of himself or look silly (he was the funniest person on the Saturday Night Live he hosted). Be Cool truly comes to life when he’s on-screen and goes back on auto-pilot once he’s gone. He deserves a better film to be in and hopefully there is one out there that will truly harness his potential. Be Cool is definitely not that movie.
“’Be Cool,’ Very Cool Making of Documentary” is standard press kit material as the cast talk about the plot and gush about how cool the character of Chili Palmer is. The draw for Uma Thurman was to work with John Travolta again after ten years. This extra is light on the insights and heavy on clips from the movie.
Also included are 14 deleted scenes totaling 17 minutes. There is more footage of Chili interacting with peripheral characters. It becomes obvious that of the main cast, Harvey Keitel was the one who had the most footage cut. There is also a nice bit where Patti LaBelle interviews Linda Moon.
“Gag Reel” is a montage of the cast goofin’ around on the set, including a funny bit where Cedric the Entertainer’s cell phone goes off during a scene and how he reacts to it.
Fans of The Rock are in for a treat as the music video his character in the movie does is included. “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man” sees the action star don a cowboy outfit for this country and western tune (much like Hootie of Hootie and the Blowfish did recently for Burger King) as he vamps it up.
“Close Up: Dance Partners” focuses on the reuniting of Thurman and Travolta as they dance together after ten years. The choreographer talks about how she worked with Travolta on this scene and her respect for his legacy of dancing in movies.
“Close Up: The Rock” features footage of the action star recording “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man” and rehearsing for the video. He was more than up for making fun of himself and comes across as a genuine nice, ego-free guy.
“Close Up: Andre 3000” features a surprisingly humble Andre Benjamin as he talks about how he spent a lot of off-screen time watching the other veteran cast members and learning from them.
“Close Up: Cedric the Entertainer” features Gary Gray talking about how wanted to cast the comedian against type by playing one of the film’s bad guys instead of playing the “funny guy.”
“Close Up: Christina Milian.” Gray had a hard time casting the role of Linda Moon. He needed someone who could sing and act. It was Milian’s ambition to do both and she was thrilled at getting this high profile gig.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.