Be Cool
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Be Cool



A hit movie generating a sequel is as natural as a cat giving birth to kittens. Unfortunately, unlike a biologically driven process where each generation strives to surpass its parent film sequels rarely rises to the level of the original let alone surpasses it. Sure there are a few notable exceptions like ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Alien’ but most sequels are fated to fall short of the movie that spawned them. It frequently helps if both films are based on novels where there is a literary follow-up to help guide the way but as the movie under examination here demonstrates this is not a sure thing. ‘Be Cool was released in 2005 as a sequel to the popular 1995 film "Get Shorty’. Right off the bat a full decade between films is a bit long to sustain interest for a non-blockbuster type of flick. "Indiana Jones’ can pull it off but for a comedy ported from a novel it would have been a remarkable feat if it had been accomplished. ‘Be Cool’ suffered from the usual plight of sequels; trying to balance recreating the elements that made the first film a hit while diverting from those elements enough to foster a degree of originality. It is a decidedly difficult goal to achieve under the most ideal circumstances but in this instance it was an uphill climb from the start. ‘Get Shorty’ was well received both in the box office and as measured by critical reception. This measure of success was sufficient enough to warrant the production of ‘Be Cool’ but it was not exactly overwhelming. In the intervening ten years the public interest waned enough that many in the audience had forgotten about the original characters and situations. The one redeeming factor was the publication of the ‘Be Cool’ novel nut again it falls in the category of too little, too late. It did come in as a minor financial win for the studio but not in the range to have the finically cautious studio consider a trilogy. There has been previous DVD releases since its initial release but ‘Be Cool’ was recently initiated into the growing set of films in the MGM/UA Blu-ray classic movies series. The studio has been re-releasing a sizable number of movies from their extensive and eclectic catalogue. Many of the films included in these release sets are cult classics and several are outright significant pieces of cinematic history. In any case just about every one of these high definition releases is something to consider including in your collection.

In the first movie Chili Palmer (John Travolta) started off as a loan shark, the type of financial lending figure who has a propensity for compounding the fractures instead of the interest. He typically plied his trade in Miami but on a fateful occasion traveled to Las Vegas to make a collection. In a complicated sequence of events Chili finds himself in the somewhat more socially acceptable profession of film producer. A number of years pass between the films and as ‘Be Cool’ starts Chili comes to the conclusion that his talents would be better served as a record producer. In some respects he does miss the upfront criminal nature of his former calling as oppose to the thinly veiled in legitimacy of the movie industry. This is an attempt at connecting to the insider jokes that abounded in ‘Get Shorty’. This acted to defuse the dominant source of the dark humor to the detriment of the overall effectiveness of the flick. To this end Chili assists the Edie Athens (Uma Thurman), widow of his friend Tommy Athens (James Woods), in an attempt to revive a defunct record studio. Key to this endeavor is to leverage the talents of a young singer, Linda Moon (Christina Milian) to propel the company to success and fiscal solvency. Pushing Chili’s decision was witnessing the brutal execution of Tommy by the new go to villain, the Russian Mob. The Slavic mobsters are trying to kill him because they tend to do that to people that could potentially testify against them on felony charges. In some ways the plot tries too hard to recapitulates the previous movie substituting a rap music mogul for a movie producer. What proves to undo this film preventing it from achieving its potential or at least duplicating the original is the over complication of the plot. Both the director and screenwriter from ‘Get Shorty’ were replaced for this outing and although both have proven track records they are not experienced in the subtle nuances required with a satiric dark comedy. Peter Steinfeld provided the script for another comic sequel ‘Analyze That’ and ‘Drowning Mona’ but doesn’t appear to have captured the wry humorous tone of Elmore Leonard’s novels. In a similar vein director F. Gary Gray did a better job of maintaining a cohesive narrative with thrillers as evident in his films; ‘The Negotiator’ and ‘Law Abiding Citizen’ then he mangers here. There are numerous superfluous threads presented here that tangle up instead of weaving together. I can understand how the movie was approved, it looks much better on paper than film. it does reunite Thurman and Travolta who throw in a twist contest homage to their iconic scene from ‘Pulp Fiction’ ultimately there are so many cameos and derivative ‘insider’ jokes that the central plot can’t stay on track. These might have been contributing factors in the success of the original but are overused and employed as the foundation of the flick instead of accents. What worked as a spice could not hold together as a main course. The cameos are amusing but wind up being a distraction. This is demonstrated by the mishmash of musical styling ranging from Brazilian with Sérgio Mendes to Wyclef Jean and Gene Simmons representing Hip-Hop and Rock. By the end of it all it is exhausting. Bring out the popcorn for this but you might want to view it as a double feature back to back with ‘Get Shorty’

Posted 07/27/11

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