'Be Cool' ** 040605
Theatrical Review (2005)

The Work = **
So, every now and then comes a movie that I really want to like. Usually, it is a film that I am looking forward to, sometimes because of a clever trailer, other times because of who is in the film or who made the film. 'Be Cool' is just one of those films that I wanted to like. In its case it is because I enjoyed the film that preceded it, 'Get Shorty'.

I also liked the cast. The trailer looked ok, like it might be a fun movie. There were warning signs. 'Get Shorty' was rated R, 'Be Cool' was rated PG-13. That just smelled of an adult oriented movie crammed into a PG-13 universe so the movie studio could get revenue from kids. Then there was the crew.

'Be Cool' was written by Peter Steinfeld. Now, I’m not knocking the guy but his first credit before Be Cool is 'Analyze That'. 'Analyze That' is probably one of the worst sequels ever made. Not saying it was Steinfeld’s fault, just saying it was a bad sign. (His other credits don’t exactly look promising either, except for a guest spot acting in an episode of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'.)

'Be Cool’s director F. Gary Gray did also not look too promising. His first two film’s, 'Friday' and 'Set it off' are supposed to be good but I have not seen. However, I have seen 'The Negotiator', 'A Man Apart' and 'The Italian Job'. Of those, only 'The Italian Job' worked for me and only marginally so. Again not knocking the guy, he’s a better filmmaker than I will ever be, just talking about my enjoyment factor.

So all those things together painted a decidedly mixed outlook in my mind but I still knew I wanted to like this film. Unfortunately I just didn’t. The only way I can accurately describe the film is bland. It might be a combination of things but the film came off as a very forced sequel.

I do wonder if there is not a R rated or unrated director’s cut that is longer and has more spark, waiting to be released on DVD. I certainly hope so. It’s strange, the film does not feel like an Elmore Leonard adaptation at all. Why the production did not get Scott Frank to do an adaptation is beyond me. He wrote two of the best recent adaptations of Leonard’s work: 'Out of Sight' and the original ' Get Shorty'.

The film follows John Travolta as Chili Palmer, the tough hood from 'Get Shorty'. Trouble is, he comes off as a shadow of his character from the first film. In 'Be Cool' he is moving from being a muscle in the film biz’ to muscle in the music biz'. His transition is not easy as he runs across a steady stream of thugs looking to get a piece of the action.

That may be one of the film’s real problems. You know how in the old days of Hollywood there was much hubbub about being under contract with a studio. It was almost all that mattered. Studios would release a film just to show off the talent they had under contract. That’s what 'Be Cool' feels like. Almost like the studio was jumping up and down saying: “look who we got, look who we got!”

'Get Shorty', 'Out of Sight', and 'Jackie Brown' (another good Leonard adaptation) all had large casts but they also had character development and a sense of value to the characters. Someone dies in 'Be Cool' and guess what? There’ll be another star along in thirty seconds to take his place. Not that the actors don’t give it their all though. Some cough off really well, almost enough to make the movie. Andre 3000 especially, looked at ease on camera and showed he could certainly handle a bigger role in a more enjoyable movie.

It’s too bad too, because there is obviously a lot of talent involved in 'Be Cool' and like I said, I really wanted to like it. A few scenes do work well and the cast does what they can. Much of the self referential material about making bad sequels seems a little too close to the truth for its own good. Maybe the DVD release will have a more solid director’s cut. Lets hope. As it stands now, I can’t recommend 'Be Cool'.


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