Back in 1995, Barry Sonnenfeld directed a movie that ended up on many
critics best of lists by the time the year's recaps were being printed
in entertainment publications. The movie was Get Shorty and it gave
lead star John Travolta his second big hit in as many years after Pulp
Fiction put him back in front of the paparazzi's lenses. Based on a
novel by Elmore Leonard, the film focused on wise guy Chili Palmer
(Travolta) and his attempts to break into the movie business.
I, for one, was completely captured by the diverse characters and crisp
dialogue of the original. So much so, that when I heard there was going
to be a sequel, I seemed to forgo my usual shivering that occurs when a
studio tries to rehash what was a good idea over ten years later.
The sequel, also based on a novel by Leonard, is this time directed by
F. Gary Gray who's Italian Job in 2003 was one of the years highest
grossing films. Couple that with the cast now expanding to include Uma
Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Cedric the Entertainer, The Rock, Vince Vaughn
and James Woods and you have all the makings of a great continuance in
the exploits of one of the more interesting characters of the 1990's.
This time round we pick up as Chili (Travolta) is leaving the movie
business after being disappointed in both himself and the industry for
participating in the making of a sequel to his successful first film.
Thanks in small part to his friend, Tommy Athens (Woods) and the
misfortune of his death, Chili decides to look into the lucrative and
dangerous music industry.
This first leads to the famous Viper club where Chili meets singing
sensation Linda Moon (Christina Milian) who as lead of an upstart trio,
can belt out tunes like Whitney Houston (that is, the Whitney before
Bobby Brown started bringing home the small packages of sugar).
Linda is under contract with Raji (Vaughn) who, with his overly
apparent gay bodyguard Elliot Wilhelm (The Rock), plan to ensure Linda
fulfills the final five years of her contract even if that means
putting Chili on ice.
So with Linda's future in the balance, Chili weaves an interesting web
which will include a record producer (Thurman), a gangsta sound mixer
(Cedric), the Russian mob, the police, Aerosmith's lead singer Steven
Tyler and a whole lot of angry gun pointing. Woo-Wheee! That sounds
exciting. So why wasn't it? Be Cool tries too hard to, well, be cool.
But the result is a film that unlike the original, has no heart and no
soul. Be Cool feels instead like it was directed by a Saturday Night
Live producer as there are individual scenes or skits that don't string
together over a whole movie. Take for example the scene where Travolta
and Thurman dance together for the first time since Pulp Fiction, as
Black Eyed Peas performs live in the background. The scene is forced
and should have ended up on the cutting room floor. Instead, it is
coupled between two other needless chapters that do nothing to push the
story forwards with any real thrust. The Aerosmith concert, and The
Rock's trip to a boot shop are also prime examples of individual
moments that don't amount to much of a movie when put together.
But those aren't the only issues with the sequel - which could probably
be renamed Product Placement with the amount of 2-Ways and Diet Pepsi's
that seem to stare at you more intensely than Chili's serious look. The
story contains just about every stereotype imaginable and each one has
just enough screen time to become slightly offensive or embarrassing.
Whether it is the gangsta entourage or the gay muscle guy that has a
movie poster of Sylvester Stallone's Rhinestone on the wall, no
characters is above offering us anything we haven't seen many times
before and in much better films.
With the magic all but gone from the first film, we end up with an
inferior product that is the second film in the past six months
(Ocean's 13 being the other) that cram a bunch of stars onto a marquee
only to end up as a movie that no actor would bring to an open
Be Cool was a major disappointment. I so wanted it to be the Get Shorty
of the new millennium and I ended up with a film where the outtakes
must have been a gas, but experience left me with a stinker.