Be Cool

By Garth Franklin

Bearing little or no relation to Barry Sonnenfeld's over-rated but still slickly pulled off 1995 black comedy "Get Shorty", this 'sort of' sequel has Travolta reprising his role of Chili Palmer (in look and accent maybe but his character seems quite different) and shifts the skewering from the movie to the music business. However, aside from a few clever moments and strong supporting roles, "Be Cool" is ultimately a mess of a movie - there's no real drive or dark edge propelling it along. Instead we get a rather plain jane "Star is Born" style main storyline spiced up with a few rather odd subplots about gangsters and contract managers who are more idiotic than actually threatening.

Indeed there's a variety of antagonists all trying to cash in on the rising singer's success but they become a jumbled confusion. Vince Vaughn, an actor I usually like, gives us easily the worst character I've seen on screen in ages with his wise-talking manager whose dialogue ranges from incomprehensible to the most downright annoying since Jodie Foster's "Nell". Keitel, his partner in crime, is also oddly bland and uninteresting. Faring better is Cedric the Entertainer who manages a part that's both hostile and at times funny. All these baddies are outshone though by Andre Benjamin as a simple-minded lackey, and The Rock who steals the movie from everyone as a macho gay bodyguard finding his inner self.

In spite of the hokey storytelling and some rather plain jane music that seems more suited to "American Idol", the main trio of Travolta, Thurman and Milian come out not too shabby either. Travolta is trying to pull off that attitude that did him so well ten years ago but the time really has come and gone, it just looks a little silly now. Thurman fares better with a more simple and light hearted role that she is obviously having fun with. Milian, the newest and least experienced of the cast members, also fares quite well in the key role which all pays off nicely towards the end in a grand Vegas style concert number.

Despite the generally enjoyable performances though, the way everything unfolds is decidedly less glamorous. All throughout the picture there seems a sense of desperation that everything you see here is trying to 'be cool' like the title, yet something that is truly cool never feels the need to try. Coolness is about going against the flow, about being a trendsetter, an original - someone or something with a raw energy that sparkles with a force of life that makes others envious. "Be Cool" on the other hand is so decidedly derivative, Director F. Gary Gray's hand so relaxed as to be asleep, that the final product is an empty vessel that is anything but what its title promises. Its certainly not as much of a car wreck as it could've been, but considering the talent involved - what's come out here isn't cool, its stone cold dead.