F. Gary Gray
John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, André 3000, Harvey Keitel, The Rock, Danny DeVito, James Woods, Robert Pastorelli, Christina Milian, Paul Adelstein, Debi Mazar
Elmore Leonard (novel), Peter Steinfeld
Everyone is looking for the next big hit.
Starring an unbelievably hip all-star cast, including John Travolta, Uma Thurman, André 3000, Steven Tyler and The Rock, and bursting with the hottest music in the biz, Be Cool is the wildly hilarious tale about a gangster turned music mogul - and what it takes to be number one with a bullet.
When Chili Palmer (Travolta) decides to try his hand in the music industry, he romances the sultry widow (Thurman) of a recently whacked music exec, poaches a hot young singer (Christina Milian) from a rival label and discovers that the record industry is packin' a whole lot more than a tune!
$23.450 million on 3216 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby 2.0
Runtime: 120 min.
Release Date: 6/7/2005
• “Be Cool, Very Cool” Documentary
• Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
• Music Video
• “Close Up: Dance Partners” Featurette
• “Close Up: The Rock” Featurette
• “Close Up: Andre 3000” Featurette
• “Close Up: Cedric the Entertainer” Featurette
• “Close Up: Christina Milian” Featurette
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Be Cool (2005)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 7, 2005)
Why did it take 10 years for the powers that be to create a sequel to 1995’s Get Shorty? I have no clue. Maybe John Travolta wasn’t desperate enough for a career revival to revisit this territory until now.
2005’s Be Cool returns Travolta to the role of Chili Palmer, one-time shylock turned movie producer. Chili tires of the film business and decides to dip his toe in the music industry. At the start of the film, Chili meets with independent music mogul Tommy Athens (James Woods) and hears about new singing sensation Linda Moon (Christina Milian). This event ends poorly, though, as a Russian assailant with a bad wig (Alex Kubik) shoots and kills Tommy.
Not one to let a little bloodshed interfere with business, Chili heads to the Viper Room to see Linda perform with her girl group Chicks International. When she meets with Chili, he decides to represent her, and that leads to a conflict with her hip-hop-wannabe manager Raji (Vince Vaughn) and his gay Samoan bodyguard Elliott (The Rock).
Of course, Chili handles this with aplomb, though he clearly winds up on Raji’s enemies list. Chili continues to attend to business and he visits Tommy’s widow Edie (Uma Thurman) to see if he can help with their company. This leads to additional intrigue related to Tommy’s murder, as Chili learns more about the Russian.
Raji meets with his boss Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel) and lets him know about the threat to Chicks International. They hire Joe Loop (Robert Pastorelli) to knock off Chili. Another complication comes when rap manager/producer/remixer Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer) wants to recoup the money Tommy owed him, so since Chili deals with Athens’s old business interests, this puts our hero in harm’s way once again. The movie follows all of the various thread plots as Chili tries to deal with the music business and also address all of the criminal elements on his tail.
Rambling and incoherent, Be Cool tosses as much at the screen as it can find and hopes that some of it will stick. Unfortunately, very little of it adheres. When the funniest part of a movie stems from shots of a man on fire, you know you’re in for a bumpy ride.
Why does Chili decide to leave the film business and get into music? Because the script said so, I guess. The script provides a weak motivation for this shift. Shorty served as a spoof of movies, so I suppose that they didn’t want to try to mine the same territory twice. Otherwise, the change of genre makes very little sense; it’s just a story device to provide a mix of new characters.
If those new characters offered more amusement and/or intrigue, that’d be fine. Unfortunately, most of them exist as ill-defined stereotypes and little more. Among others, we get thuggish rappers, a bourgeois producer with a ghetto side, a gay Samoan bodyguard, a sexy ingénue, and a white man who thinks he’s black. Across the board, none of them evolves above the level of one-dimensional, and the movie’s leads don’t fare any better.
Travolta was arguably the best part of Shorty, but he falters badly here. He infused the first flick with a sparkle totally absent in the sequel. It shows us a weary, lackluster Travolta who bears no resemblance to the slick charmer of the original movie. Whereas he added life to the prior film, he drags down the sequel.
Unfortunately, the same is true for the saggy performance from Thurman. I’ve always thought a lot about her acting skills, but here she looks tired and detached. No chemistry sparks between her and Travolta, and that causes major problems, especially since their dance scene exists to remind us of their legendary boogie in Pulp Fiction.
Are Travolta and Thurman really the same people who lit up Fiction ten years ago? It really doesn’t seem possible. The filmmakers make a major miscue in their choice to have the pair dance as well. On the surface, the prospect of a tango between Thurman and Travolta sounds like a treat, but the reality is dismally dull. When you refer to an older movie, you run into the danger that you’ll do little more than remind viewers of prior glories. As I watched the dance scene, all I thought about was how much more I liked Fiction than I did Cool, and I don’t think that’s what the filmmakers wanted.
Other disappointments emerge as well. The usually reliable Keitel seems surprisingly anonymous here and brings no zing to his performance. A lesser-known quantity, Milian looks great - she’s a gorgeous woman - but she has no personality as Linda. Even compared to the lackluster work from many of the others, she seems like a charisma-free cipher.
Did Cool do anything well? Not much, but a few of the performances provide humor. I’m not wild about Vaughn’s cartooniness, as he goes well beyond the boundaries of believability. However, he throws out enough funny bits to create at least a few amusing moments. In the midst of so much boredom, I’ll take what I can get.
To my surprise, the Rock’s take on Elliot presents the movie’s best material. The Rock neatly balances parody and realism, as he embraces the character’s flamboyant tendencies but doesn’t make him swishy or one-dimensional. There’s a sense of lightness about the character that pokes fun at some stereotypes while it mocks them and digs into the irony of the ultra-macho Rock as a gay guy. It’s a loose and likable performance that adds zest to his scenes.
Despite these occasional highlights, Be Cool meanders and fails to engage the viewer with any consistency. Get Shorty wasn’t a very good film, but it looks brilliant compared to the tepid, unfocused sequel.
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-
Be Cool appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite a few niggling issues, this transfer usually looked pretty terrific.
Sharpness mostly came across well. Due largely to a smidgen of edge enhancement, some wider shots displayed minor softness. Otherwise the image appeared consistently distinctive and detailed. Jagged edges and shimmering weren’t concerns, and virtually no source defects popped up throughout the movie.
Cool went with a warm palette that offered many lively tones. These occasionally seemed slightly oversaturated, which I suspect was partially due to visual design. Whatever the case, the colors appeared bright and dynamic. Blacks came across as deep and firm, and the occasional low-light shot demonstrated good clarity and visibility. I was tempted to put this transfer in “A-“ territory, but the mix of small concerns knocked it down to a still strong “B+”.
Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Be Cool. Since the movie focused on the record biz, it made sense that the mix concentrated on music. The songs and score boasted good stereo imaging and the rears bolstered them nicely. As for effects usage, most of the film stayed with general ambience, though a few scenes were more active. For example, the gunfire during Tommy’s killing zipped around the room, and big events like the Aerosmith concert broadened things well. There wasn’t a lot of activity to the soundfield, but enough occurred to make things involving.
Across the board, audio quality worked well. Speech was consistently natural and concise, and I noticed no problems with edginess or intelligibility. Music showed nice dynamics, as the highs were bright and the lows were firm. Effects followed suit. They came across as lively and rich. The occasional loud sequence featured solid bass support. Again, nothing here excelled, but the whole package meshed well enough for a “B+”.
Not a whole lot of extras accompany Be Cool. We start with a 21-minute and 33-second documentary called Be Cool, Very Cool. It presents the usual roster of movie clips, behind the scenes shots, and interviews. We hear from director F. Gary Gray, producers Stacey Sher, David Nicksay and Michael Shamberg, actors John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Christina Milian, the Rock, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre “3000” Benjamin, and Vince Vaughn. “Cool” reflects on the Chili Palmer character, the development of the sequel, its story and personalities, the cast and their relationships, improvising and Gray’s work during the shoot. Unfortunately, this means that we get very little other than promotional fluff. The parts about improvising offer some fun glimpses of the set, but otherwise the show acts to tout the flick and nothing else. It’s not informative.
A collection of 14 Deleted Scenes lasts a total of 17 minutes and 14 seconds. As you can tell from that running time, the clips usually don’t last very long so don’t expect much of substance; most of them extend existing sequences. Nonetheless, a few intriguing bits appear such as an earlier introduction to Nick Carr the reveals his prior relationship with Chili and some excised characters.
Although none of the clips are stellar, they’re mostly interesting to see. A fairly long one with Vaughn and the Rock works best, especially when Raji pitches Elliott an idea for a movie called Samoan Alone. We even find a cameo from former Lakers coach Phil Jackson that probably got the boot due to his departure from the team. (Unfortunately, we also get a cameo from the ever-annoying Patti Labelle.)
For more cut footage, we go to the seven-minute and 19-second Gag Reel. Should you expect anything other than the standard wacky takes and goof-ups? Nope, but some of those are unusually amusing. For example, Cedric jokes with the girl who plays his daughter when a car alarm goes off, and we see a few other funny improvs.
If you expect some generic pop nonsense from the DVD’s Music Video, you’ll find a pleasant surprise. This presents the uncut version of “Elliot Wilhelm’s” take on “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man”. We see glimpses of this in the movie, but here we get to check out the whole thing along with an introduction from director Gray. This becomes a very fun extra. (I never realized that the clip featured two-thirds of Chicks International until I saw it on its own.)
Next we get five featurettes under the banner of Close Up. These focus on “Dance Partners” (three minutes, 34 seconds), “The Rock” (6:00), “Andre 3000” (4:23), “Cedric the Entertainer” (5:25), and “Christina Milian” (5:25). These include comments from Sher, Shamberg, Gray, Travolta, Thurman, the Rock, Benjamin, Cedric, Milian, Vaughn and choreographer Fatima Robinson.
“Partners” focuses on the dance sequence between Travolta and Thurman while the others concentrate on the work of the actors named. “The Rock” looks at his take on the character and his recording/music video shoot of “You Ain’t Woman…” while “3000” concentrates on the evolution of the character as well as Benjamin’s growth as an actor. “Cedric” talks about his challenge playing a nasty character, while “Milian” goes over some of the actor’s approaches to her role and her memories of the shoot.
The various “Close Up” featurettes neither excel nor flop. On the positive side, they offer decent insight and don’t just toss out generic recaps of the characters and stories. We also get some nice footage from the set. However, they don’t present a lot of depth and they stay moderately superficial. They’re worth a look for the behind the scenes footage.
By the way, am I the only one who thinks F. Gary Gray looks an awful lot like Gary Coleman?
When the DVD opens, it presents an ad for Beauty Shop. The DVD also offers the trailer for Be Cool along with promos for Get Shorty and the Be Cool soundtrack.
It took them 10 years to make a sequel to Get Shorty and this was the best they could do? Despite some occasional humor, Be Cool usually comes across as dull and rambling. A few supporting performances add zest, but the leads seem surprisingly bland and they drag down a flick that needs as much life as possible. The DVD offers very good picture and audio as well as I hoped to find something fun from Be Cool, especially when its trailer made it look like something special, but the end result falls flat.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.0769 Stars|| Number of Votes: 13|