"Be Cool": A Review
Be Cool be crap.
Somewhere in this mess is a story. There just has to be; after all, it's based on Elmore Leonard's 1999 sequel to his own Get Shorty, and so the movie boasts John Travolta reprising his role as one-time shylock Chili Palmer, a part he took up in Get Shorty's 1995 movie version. While that earlier work focused on Chili's foray into the movie industry, Be Cool finds our so-cool-he's-frozen-popsicle-bland protagonist drifting through the ooze of L.A.'s sleazy music biz.
And in either an unfortunate accident or a meta-ironic attempt to parrot that shallow world, Be Cool serves up a passel of tired caricatures, stale gags and self-congratulatory cameos (Aerosmith's Steven Tyler makes a particularly cringe-worthy appearance). There's a burly bodyguard who is gay and -- get this -- wants to be in movies! Yow-zah! Oh, and then there's a white guy who thinks he's a black guy! Hoo-boy! There's a Russian Mafiosi who sports a ... bad toupee! Tee-hee-hee! Oh, and then there's the gangsta rapper who's just itching to shoot someone! Knee-slappin' hoopa-hoopa funny!
Some of these hijinks are executed by some very talented folks, a fact that helps alleviate the sting somewhat. The Rock, Andre 3000 (from the hip-hop duo Outkast), Vince Vaughn and Cedric the Entertainer all shine in their respective roles -- especially The Rock (that's right, The Rock) -- until the one-dimensional shtick they are saddled with starts to wear thin. It doesn't take long for things to start wearing thin.
Others in this ensemble cast are less lucky. Christina Milian has the thankless role of the young musical talent whom impresario Chili takes under his wing and steers toward a record contract. (Will she make it? Take a guess.) Milian is relegated to several performances of synthetic R&B dross while Travolta and co-star Uma Thurman are told to sway their heads from side to side, caught up in the ecstasy of her vocal stylings and the realization that, yes, another scene is coming to a close.
To top things off, the Travolta-Uma duo must take to the dance floor for an ostensibly sexy dance number meant to recall the actual chemistry they once showed in Pulp Fiction. To steal an antiquated line from Lloyd Bentson: I know Pulp Fiction. I saw Pulp Fiction. And Be Cool, you are no Pulp Fiction.
Director F. Gary Gray is a competent, if unremarkable, director (The Italian Job proved that), and he does manage to keep Be Cool humming along and even intermittently entertaining.
But hell, intermittently entertaining just doesn't quite justify the cost of going to the movies nowadays.
Manohla Dargis' review in The New York Times is uncharacteristically dead-on.