Judge Clark Douglas used to think "Chili Palmer" was a chapter in the Kama Sutra.
Our review of Be Cool, published July 8th, 2005, is also available.
The record industry is packin' a whole lot more than a tune!
"Twinkle twinkle, baby! Twinkle twinkle!"
Facts of the Case
Ex-loan shark Chili Palmer (John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever) is getting a bit tired of his career as a Hollywood power player. After Chili's pal and record mogul Tommy Athens (James Woods, Videodrome) is whacked by some Russian mobsters, Chili decides it might be time to try his hand at the music business. His chief inspiration: a talented young singer named Linda Moon (Christina Milan, Pulse). Chili thinks Linda has the potential to be a superstar, but she's currently stuck in a bad contract with low-life gangster Raji (Vince Vaughn, Wedding Crashers). Can Chili find a way to free Linda from her contract and successfully navigate his way through the tricky world of the music business?
In the history of misguided, pointless sequels, there are few which can match the misguided pointlessness of Be Cool. Revisiting the film several years after its initial release, I remain astonished at how consistently it wastes its talented cast, how miserable its sense of humor is and how it entirely fails to recapture one ounce of the charm generated by Barry Sonnenfeld's entertainingly clever Get Shorty.
To give you an idea of what you're in for, here's a sampling of the things you're meant to find entertaining in this would-be comedy:
• An opening scene in which Travolta and Woods talk about how lousy sequels are (it's funny, because this movie is a sequel!) and how lame it is that you can only say one f-word in a PG-13 movie (it's funny, because this is a PG-13 movie in which Travolta uses one f-word).
• Vince Vaughn playing a gangster/pimp with a predilection for using an overdose of street slang (it's funny, because he's a white guy who thinks he's a black guy).
• The Rock (The Tooth Fairy) playing a bulky bodyguard who happens to be extremely gay. This is evidenced by the fact that The Rock buys a sparkly red baseball bat to beat people up with, that he loves Bring It On, that he loves sucking on chicken drumsticks, that he loves wearing really tight pants and that he starred in a music video performing "You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man" (it's funny, because The Rock is a big tough guy, and the notion of a big tough guy being gay is hilarious). Additionally, this subplot is accompanied by loads of supposedly amusing scenes in which many other characters in the film make fun of The Rock for being "a f—-- t" (it's funny, because he's totally gay).
• Steven Tyler turning in a cameo in which he utters the line, "Look, I'm not one of those singers who makes appearances in movies" (it's funny, because he's making an appearance in this movie).
• Cedric the Entertainer (Barbershop) as a gangster who acts like a sweet-natured gentlemen in his suburban neighborhood but acts like a tough guy when he's at work (it's funny, because he's a killer and he pretends to be nice sometimes).
And so it goes. Almost nothing in Be Cool works, as the film hops from wheezy callbacks to other, better movies (a dance scene between Travolta and Thurman works overtime to remind us of Pulp Fiction) to cornball plot developments (Linda's rags-to-riches tale is pure Disney Channel cheese) to unimaginatively-staged scenes of characters pointing guns at each other (the most cringe-inducing is an intentionally ironic scene in which Cedric talks about the contributions African-Americans have made to the world's culture just before he shoots a guy in the face).
Be Cool boasts one of the most star-studded casts of any film released in the past decade, but none of the players involved manage to come out of this debacle with their dignity intact. Almost everyone is handed an embarrassing scene to deal with, making Be Cool a kind of horrific, relentless document of what bad material can do to good actors. Perhaps the film should have been marketed as a horror flick with that notion as its central premise: "Wince as Harvey Keitel performs a poem built around the name of Chili Palmer! Cringe as John Travolta fails in an attempt to recapture the coolness he brought to Get Shorty! Weep as a cavalcade of A-list actors embrace a series of tired stereotypes!"
Oh, one other note: like most terrible films attempting to persuade audiences that they actually had a lot of fun, this one ends with a stupid montage of all the characters (even some dead ones) dancing around and laughing. Such scenes need to be banned for a few years.
Be Cool arrives on Blu-ray sporting a perfectly acceptable 1080p/2.40:1 transfer which leaves the film's natural grain structure intact and offers generally satisfactory levels of detail. Flesh tones are just a shade overcooked at times, but there's nothing here (positive or negative) which should inspire strong feelings. The transfer gets the job done and that's about it. Sound is fairly impressive, with the film's handful of concert sequences serving as particularly strong workouts for your speaker system (shame the songs aren't better—I'm looking at you, Black Eyed Peas). John Powell's funky score also comes through with strength, and dialogue is clear throughout. Extras are reprised from the DVD: a 21-minute making of featurette entitled "Be Cool, Very Cool," some rather brief "Close-Up" featurettes spotlighting Milan, Travolta, Thurman, The Rock, Cedic the Entertainer and Andre 3000, some deleted scenes, a gag reel, a music video and a trailer. As is often the case on these MGM Blu-ray releases, there is no disc menu, meaning you have to access the supplements from the pop-up menu.
Be Cool is an aggressively uncool flick, and it remains one of the most genuinely awful sequels of recent years. Don't let your affection for Get Shorty inspire you to check out this abomination of a follow-up.
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