Be Cool Review

by David N. Butterworth (dnb AT dca DOT net)
April 6th, 2005

A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2005 David N. Butterworth

**1/2 (out of ****)

    It should be stated from the outset that "Be Cool," the sequel to 1995's sublime "Get Shorty," is no "Get Shorty." Sure it's fun in places and laugh out loud funny in others (it's a comedy after all), mostly hip and very handsome when it tries to be, but it's in a different class to Barry Sonnenfeld's original take on the Elmore Leonard comedic crime novel. B-class, coach class, sub-class.
    In the first film, John Travolta played a "shylock," a loan shark who made a name for himself in the movie business, beset, belittled and besieged by unappreciative mobsters, hit men, and hanger-onners. This time around Travolta's Chili Palmer--it's a name not easily forgotten, like "Blue Velvet"'s Frank Booth or "The Usual Suspects"' Kaiser Soze-- has tired of the movie biz and decides to try his hand in the music industry after spying an up-and-coming J-Lo-styled performer in a nightclub (Christina Milian, whose singular claim to fame is that she wrote the "Kim Possible" theme song!).

    For every performer, every character in "Be Cool" that rocks there's one that doesn't. Travolta is the epitome of cool, of course, slick and sly, with not one hair on his dashing head askew. The music biz widow he woos is played by Uma Thurman, largely competent but no Renee Russo (whose absence is a major drawback). Rival industry exec Nick Carr is played by Harvey Keitel with his clothes on. He's pretty bad as is James Woods who, thankfully, buys it in the first reel. Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler plays himself and not very impressively at that.

    Outstanding, however, are Vince Vaughn, as a white guy who acts black (sounds clichéd but just watch him go at it) and his gay bodyguard Elliot Wilhelm, a softy with an afro and dreams of an acting career, played by The Rock. These are terrific characters, beautifully realized, and raise the film's comedic bar whenever they're on screen.
    Likewise OutKast's André 3000 is fun as a thug with an itchy trigger finger as is Cedric the Entertainer, another music mogul type. And the late Robert Pastorelli, Murphy Brown's painter, is entertainingly disgusting as the incompetent hit man Joe Loop
    Finally diminutive Danny DeVito shows up in an all-too brief scene as mega movie star Martin Weir and probably shouldn't even have been credited (his Jersey Pictures studio produced, however).

    The story, taken from Leonard's follow-up, is more of the same, and affords Travolta the opportunity to reprise his character's trademark patter. There are bad Russians with even worse toupees and awkward musical interludes when Linda Moon (Milian) struts her stuff or gets all gooey at the piano, and the whole slapstick affair goes on way too long.

    But if you can try and get "'Shorty" out of your head for a couple of goofy, irreverent hours there's a good chance you'll enjoy "Be Cool" on its own--if inconsistent--merits.

David N. Butterworth
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