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BE COOL (PG-13) (2005)


Official Site

Director: F. Gary Gray

Producers: Danny DeVito, David Nicksay, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher

Written by: Peter Steinfeld; based on the novel by Elmore Leonard

Cast: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric The Entertainer, André 3000, Christina Milian, The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), Harvey Keitel, Robert Pastorelli, Danny DeVito, James Woods, Debi Mazar


It took about 10 years but leading Scientologist and movie star John Travolta has finally appeared in a decent, watchable movie. In the new sequel, Be Cool, Travolta is back in true dancing form (once again with Uma Thurman) as Get Shorty’s mobster-turned-movie producer, Chili Palmer.

There’s not much of a new story in the film, based on a novel by author and executive producer, Elmore Leonard. All you really need to know is that Chili has grown tired of and complacent with the movie business. When some Russian mobsters gun down Chili’s music producer friend, Tommy Athens (Woods), who had pitched a movie about himself to Chili, a scenario arises for the former loan-shark to stick his fist in the music business. Chili takes it upon himself to represent and manage the budding singer, Linda Moon (Milian) and attaches himself to Tommy’s widow, Edie (Thurman) and their label, NTL Records. The problem is that Tommy’s company owes a lot of money to a preppy and eloquent gangsta rap producer, Sin LaSalle (Cedric). There are also problems with the Russians and Linda’s former managers, Raji (Vaughn) and Nick Carr (Keitel). But for a guy like Chili Palmer, who seems to have a knack for the business better than anyone, it ain’t no thing.

Though very little has changed in sequence and story from the first movie, fans will be happy to know that F. Gary Gray manages things well in this quick-witted and entertaining comedy. I suppose that the worst thing I can say about the film is that it’s somewhat derivative—just a change in setting and packaging, since the plot and characters deviate little from Get Shorty. Screenwriter Paul Steinfeld worked out a clever script that plays to the strengths of the characters and actors.

Travolta as Chili Palmer possesses a combination of brains and brawn—a cool force to be reckoned with. Chili always seems to know the exact right thing to say in any sticky situation and never loses his head. Vaughn is hilarious as the wannabe rapper, Raji. However, if there was one breakout, near show-stealing performance in this picture, it’sThe Rock as Raji’s gay bodyguard, Elliot Wilhelm (AN: a somewhat oblique reference to the voice of the most canned sound effect scream in the history of cinema? Not sure). In a big departure from past, big action hero movie roles, the man once known as Flex Cavana, Rocky Maivia, or better known to his family and friends as Dwayne Johnson, plays a very convincing and hilarious homosexual character. (AN: If I were a gossip reporter for the E! Network this is where I would say, hmm…) Witness his monologue from Bring It On for proof. The rest of the cast does good work with no noticeably dodgy performances. The movie might also be notable to a few, since it will be the last appearance of character actor Robert Pastorelli (who died of a drug overdose almost exactly a year ago) as a crude, swing-music loving hitman, Joe Loop.

The only returning character from Get Shorty (whom I noticed) was DeVito’s unconventional movie star, Martin Weir, who in one scene shares a passionate, messy French kiss with native Texan, fellow Houstonian, and hillbilly butter hog, Anna Nicole Smith. I can easily say it is a job I’m thankful I did not have. You go Oswald.

“Sorry ladies, just here to dance. Just here to dance.”

—John Travolta

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

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Itís worth a matinee ticket.

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