BE COOL (2005)


Directed By: F. Gary Grey
Written By: Peter Steinfeld
Based on the novel by: Elmore Leonard
Cinematography By: Jeffrey L. Kimball
Editor: Sheldon Kahn 

Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Kietel, Christina Milian, Kimberly J. Brown, James Woods, Cedric The Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, Vince Vaughn, Steven Tyler, Danny DeVito, Robert Pastorelli, Dwayne Johnson, Arielle Kebbel, Scott Adsit, Gregory Alan Williams, Paul Adelstein, Debi Mazar

Streetwise mobster-turned-movie producer Chili Palmer is back, but this time Chili has abandoned the fickle movie industry and veered into the music business, tangling with Russian mobsters and gangsta rappers and taking a talented, feisty young singer named Linda Moon under his wing. From the recording studio to an Aerosmith concert to the MTV Music Awards, he manipulates events to watch them play out the Chili way, using his signature blend of wiseguy skills and negotiation tactics. It’s a dangerous business, and everyone’s looking for their next big hit.

I don’t know if the reason I don’t like this film is because it is bad alone or because it is a bad sequel compared to GET SHORTY.  The film tries to satirize the music business as much as it did the movie business with GET SHORTY. only this film feel majorly defanged and seems more interested in getting an all star cast then quality and story.

Barry Sonnenfeld originally intended to return as director to this follow-up to his Get Shorty but production delays and scheduling issues precluded that. Brett Ratner was originally set to direct the project, but pulled out.

Now normally I could blame the problems with this film on the incompetence of some screenwriter trying to make a plot similar to the first film, with just as many colorful and quirky characters while trying to be a sequel. The sad part is I believe they follow the novel of Which this film is based pretty closely.

It doesn’t stop the film from seeming more like a circus rather than a film in which the whole order of the day seems more like stunt casting. The first film is guilty of it also but at least the characters were fun and somewhat believable not just a joke in of themselves where it is In this film. Look at Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson play flamboyant and gay. Yes that’s right the major symbol of masculinity. Watch Vince Vaughn do his white guy trying to be black. Watch Harvey Keitel play a hip gangster turned record exec. Who seems like a menacing charmless hippie pimp monster, like an update I his Character Sport from the film TAXI DRIVER only without any emotions.

How such a great cast got pulled into this? I don’t know because it wasn’t the script. If only they all could have come together for a good project.

In the beginning of the film, Chili mentions how a film needs to only use the “F” word more than once in order to get an R rating. He then uses the “F” word – the only use of it in the film – and thus, it gets a PG-13 rating.

None of this is at all Interesting and casting Uma Thurman who doesn’t have much to do here. She looks lost as there isn’t really a character to play. She seems to be more of a plot point. Reeks more of a gimmick of reuniting her with John Travolta from PULP FICTION and have them even have a gratuitous dance scene. John Travolta suggested Uma Thurman for the role of Edie, wanting to re-create their chemistry from Pulp Fiction all over again.

Vince Vaughn’s role seems to be a one man minstrel show act; that is just missing the blackface. It’s good for a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit, but stretched out it becomes annoying very fast.

Joe Pesci was part of the cast before filming began. But, for reasons unknown, he left the project shortly before production started.

Dwayne Johnson in this film feels more of a stroke of Stunt casting that luckily works out more then anything else.

As always the lead character played by John Travolta is always a step ahead of all the other characters. So that you know he will prevail by the end. Now in most films you know this but they at least build up some suspense so that you can be interested in how they will get out of the situation. Here they don’t even try it seems more like his character reacting to the ridiculous characters around him. In GET SHORTY he created a comedic character with heart, soul and charisma. Here his character is as vapid, fake and plastic as the people he is dealing with.

It also doesn’t help that the ingénue played by Christina Milian, that the film hangs onto as her talent is so immaculate, comes up short. She is an o.k. singer nothing to write home about. Which hurts as so much is said about how golden her singing is and when you finally hear it, it’s a letdown, also she is supposed I be so innocent though the way the role is played it seems like she isn’t as naive or innocent as she let’s on and would have been a great conniving character to be revealed in the third act. No they keep her whole act going throughout the film. Her character isn’t as deep and looking for others to so he work for her. That she was too lazy to do herself, but she is hot.

Now I saw this film when it was in theaters as I was a big fan of GET SHORTY. That film is actually one of the films I believe I have seen the most in theater even before I worked in one. I believe I Saw it 5 – 6 times. So when the sequel was announced I was really looking forward to it, even when I saw the trailer which was weak. I didn’t read the warning signs and still thought it could be worthwhile. I was appalled by what I watched as the audience around me hooted and hollered at the watered down humor and stereotypical jokes. What was supposed to pass for satire. I was not amused and felt embarrassed quite honestly for some of the actors. They heavily feature Steven Tyler playing himself and making jokes about how he never appears in films as it is tacky. Like that is a brilliant joke only of ironic which it is not here.

It just feels like a film that is coasting more on it’s laurels or more the franchises instead of actually putting in some work and attempting to be a good film. It follows the rules of a sequel by being bigger and more of the same. It’s just majorly disappointing all around.

The only thing I found kind of funny the whole film was Cedric the Entertainer’s rap manager being Harvard educated and trying to teach his rappers etiquette. Though that bit wore out it’s welcome after it started It becomes over the top and overplayed. Though he seemed to be the only Real interesting character. Though most of his scenes are with Andre Benjamin whose role could have been played by anyone.

This whole film is a waste, like a studio wrote off to justify expenses and they throw something together and release it to be proof of the spent money. Why not since the first one was successful. It’s a shame it had most of the elements to be a good film, or at least entertaining as the first film. Maybe the great quality of the first film set us up, since it was so good that this one caught is off guard as it offers diminished returns.

The film just feels like you know what’s going to happen as soon as it is introduced and then feels stale and old.

Grade: F

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