A reasonably good movie, charming and sweet with a very good ending, but… with all Gondry’s warm-hearted dream fun, why did I feel a bit cold from both this and Science of Sleep? I don’t know the answer.
Jack Black lives in a junkyard and is full of energy and ideas but is childish and doesn’t think things through very well. Mos Def has simple dreams (to help manage the video store, to stay out of trouble), Katy said he seems slow. Store owner and fake-historian Danny Glover is behind the times, takes a bizarre week “vacation” to spy on a blockbuster-like competitor. And Mia Farrow alternately seems addled, impatient or understanding & motherly. The tape-erasing “sweding” business is an excuse for a life lesson (that what you create yourself or what is created by low-budget neighbors with good intentions can be superior to mass-market entertainment) and to unite a community (for a fundraising community bio-pic about “local” legend Fats Waller), with lessons learned from Gondry’s Dave Chappelle concert movie.
Paul “Jellineck” Dinello and Matt “Upright Citizens” Walsh showed up with Sigourney Weaver at the end but I only recognized SW.
A great Bright Lights After Dark article talks about racial harmony in the film:
Jack Black, in blackface with pencil moustache and bowler, is clearly the perfect choice for Waller. It’s not just that he’s fat, but he looks like Waller as well, and could probably sing just like him after studying a few records. Danny Glover has to take Black outside to wordlessly imitate a minstrel softshoe to spell out why despite these assets, even a painted light brown face is too close to the shameful racist past.
One imagines a similar explanation perhaps being needed for Gondry at one point and it’s sad to think of anything standing in the way of his good-hearted vision. Black can’t go nuts as Waller as his showboating nature would permit, but must defer to the much thinner but blacker Def. Now, Waller was very light-skinned. Why couldn’t Black play him instead of Def? The question is rhetorical of course, dating back to antebellum bullshit about one one hundreth of a drop of black blood or whatever. But rhetorical or not, it’s clearly worth asking, and Gondry gives us a safe space in which to ask it. We may not get an answer, but even better is Gondry’s indication that, if our shared culture should one day become our shared property, we may not need one.