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"Be Cool" Movie Review

“Be Cool” Fails to Heed Its Own Advice

By

Uma Thurman John Travolta Be Cool

Uma Thurman and John Travolta in "Be Cool"

© MGM
It’s been 10 years since “Get Shorty” entertained moviegoers, and 10 years is a long time to wait for a sequel. I assumed that since it took a decade to be made, and since novelist Elmore Leonard was involved, the finished product would be worthy of its predecessor. Well, we all know what happens when you assume…

“Be Cool” doesn’t come close to capturing the spirit of “Get Shorty.” Instead, it settles for riding the coattails of “Get Shorty’s” success without any real spirit or enthusiasm. Many of the scenes and much of the dialogue in “Be Cool” feels like recycled “Get Shorty” material. Even worse, material that wouldn't have been considered good enough for “Get Shorty” seems to have found a home in this throw-away sequel.

“Be Cool” is made up of a mishmash of scenes that appear to have been crammed into the movie in order to give each of the members of the large ensemble a chance to show off once or twice during the film. Continuity and plotlines be damned.

The story basically boils down to Chili Palmer finding an up-and-coming singer and deciding to move out of the movie business and into the snake pit known as the music business. He teams up with widow/failing record producer Edie (Uma Thurman), takes on a gang of Russians who are to the mob as the Bad News Bears are to baseball, squares off with Harvey Keitel (don’t ask me his character’s name or why he’s in this movie), and faces down the gay bodyguard (The Rock) of a white guy/music manager (Vince Vaughn) who wears a lot of red and thinks he’s ghetto. Chili also has to deal with a rival record producer (played by Cedric the Entertainer) who uses members of his successful rap group (including Andre Benjamin from Outkast) as enforcers.

After 110 or so minutes, "Be Cool" comes to an unsatisfying conclusion not worth the time invested in watching the movie. In facti, if you don't find yourself racing for the aisles before the credits even start to roll, it’s only because you’ve fallen asleep in your seat.

For the most part, the ensemble cast of “Be Cool” is a second-rate version of the stars who populated “Get Shorty.” An exception is wrestler-turned-actor, The Rock. The Rock steals the film and shows he truly does have great comic timing. As a gay wannabe actor/country singer he nails the performance, even going so far as to make fun of his own patented ‘lifted eyebrow’ maneuver. Another pleasant surprise is Andre Benjamin. Benjamin's not yet there as an actor but man, this guy is fun to watch on screen.

This Chili Palmer doesn’t have that edge Chili Palmer did in “Get Shorty,” and John Travolta seems to just be along for the ride this time around. There’s not a single scene in “Be Cool” where Travolta as Chili made me glad to see him back in the character. But he did look good, I’ll give him that.

The real disappointment is Uma Thurman. Thurman’s so good in everything else that her performance in "Be Cool" stands out because it's so far below her usual work. We’re used to so much better from Thurman. Not even the much-talked about dance scene manages to ignite any fire in the actress or her “Pulp Fiction”/”Be Cool” dance partner, Travolta.

Christina Milian’s got a good voice and looks pretty, but her performance was very bland. While she strutted her stuff with Steven Tyler and Aerosmith, I felt like I was watching a Disney Concert Special, rather than a film based on a story by Elmore Leonard. As a racially confused rap promoter, Vince Vaughn starts off being annoying, graduates to mildly amusing, and then regresses to annoying again.

Hidden away in “Be Cool” is a good half-hour movie. But since marketing a film that only lasts 30 minutes isn’t an easy task, an extra hour and a half of padding had to be tacked on to justify charging the $10 admission. Riddled with clichés, jokes that play into stereotypes, gags that go nowhere, and a plot that makes little or no sense, "Be Cool" is seriously disappointing.

The only way to get studios to stop trying to cash in on hit movies with lame sequels is to stay away from theaters. Save your money, rent “Get Shorty,” and don't buy into the idea this movie's in any way cool.

GRADE: C-

"Be Cool" was directed by F. Gary Gray and is rated PG-13 for violence, sensuality, and language including sexual references.

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