Be Cool Reviewby Jon Popick (jpopick AT sick-boy DOT com)
March 4th, 2005
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I hoped a few months would have gone by before I saw a movie as bad as Diary of a Mad Black Woman, but Be Cool dashed those dreams in one week flat. Note to studio executives: You need to be really clever if you dare to make fun of Hollywood sequels with a Hollywood sequel. Cool never even approaches clever, instead finding itself busy trying to find ways to shamelessly shoehorn product placement into the film every 30 seconds.
Cool, a sequel to 1995's over-praised Get Shorty, once again pits ex-gangster Chili Palmer (John Travolta, Ladder 49) against the entertainment industry, although this time around, he takes on the music business (I can't wait for Where's Arnold?, where he turns California politics on its ear). Chili has tired of movies after Get Lost, the sequel to his wildly popular Get Leo, is given the bum's rush for being a derivative, unnecessary dud. Another note to studio executives: Try not to go too far out of your way to set up jokes for critics to make at your expense, because making a derivative, unnecessary sequel about a derivative, unnecessary sequel just seems desperate.
Chili quickly finds himself mired in a situation where, in attempting to help a friend's widow (Uma Thurman) and her indie record label, he's chased around by the police, the Russian mafia, a gun-wielding hip-hop producer (Cedric the Entertainer), and both an unscrupulous agent (Harvey Keitel, who played himself in Shorty) and his wigger sidekick (a painfully unfunny Vince Vaughn). But Chili barely blinks his eyes, which is grating and gets exponentially more silly as the level of danger increases. There's a huge difference between "cool" and "lifeless," and Travolta isn't aware of it.
The rambling cast -aside from a drive-by appearance from Danny DeVito, Cool doesn't even mention any of Shorty's other characters - really makes you appreciate how badly Ocean's 12 didn't suck. Compare that film's parody of Julia Roberts' life with this: In Cool, The Rock "plays" a struggling gay actor whose only talent is his ability to raise one eyebrow. See? That's funny because.oh, never mind. When the most comedic performance in a cast this huge comes from a non-actor (OutKast's André Benjamin), you're in way past your eyeballs.
Shorty's writer (Scott Frank) and director (Barry Sonnefeld) wisely stayed away from this bomb, handing over control to The Italian Job's F. Gary Gray, who hasn't made anything even moderately recommendable since Shorty was in theatres; and Analyze That scribe Peter Steinfeld, who seems to have cornered the market on penning unwatchable sequels. In their mighty hands, Cool often plays like video made by the Los Angeles Tourism Board. They try to get Travolta and Thurman to ape their Jack Rabbit Slim's dance scene from Pulp Fiction to virtually no avail because the setup is so forced, and Gray shoots it all wrong. They manage to re-write both Los Angeles County smoking laws and the history of Liv Tyler's parentage without batting an eye.
The dynamic duo of Gray and Steinfeld also pack Cool with a half-dozen full-length songs, which become increasingly excruciating if you're not a fan of Christina Milian or bad American Idol-type music. Besides Milian's screeching, all of Cool's other music is the magical type that manages to get turned down whenever there's bad dialogue to be spoken (a shout out to Trainspotting for being one of the only pictures to get that right). But my favorite part was when Cool sand-blasted the audience with an embarrassing monologue about racial stereotyping, which comes about five seconds after Cedric's character vindictively calls a Russian guy, "Vladimir." Incidentally, is there a black guy less gansta than Cedric? I think Bryant Gumbel would give this guy a right proper beat-down. Barney Gumbel, too, but that's a whole other movie.
1:54 - PG-13 for violence, sensuality and language including sexual references
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