John Travolta and ‘Be Cool’ are not quite so cool

[rating=2]Starring: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre Benjamin, Steven Tyler, Robert Pastorelli, Christina Milian, Harvey Keitel, The Rock, Danny DeVito
Director(s): F. Gary Gray
Writer(s): Screenplay by Peter Steinfeld; Based upon the novel by Elmore Leonard

John Travolta reunites with his Pulp Fiction co-star, Uma Thurman, in the not-so-cool 'Be Cool'
John Travolta reunites with his Pulp Fiction co-star, Uma Thurman, in the not-so-cool ‘Be Cool’

I was a big fan of Get Shorty. It is, hands down, one of my all time favorite films. When the notion of a sequel first got floated, I was excited. Then I finally got the chance to see it, on DVD, which was just released this past Tuesday.

Boy was I disappointed.

It wasn’t terrible, so much as completely different from the original. Be Cool has many of the same plot elements, but only a twinkle of the wit and charm that made Get Shorty such an excellent comedy. Where Shorty poked fun at the movie industry, Be Cool comes off more like an over-the-top parody.Shorty was slick and cool, Cool is goofy and slap-sticky.

However, Be Cool has its moments, and when you let go of the fact that its not the same kind of film as Get Shorty, it’s not terrible. Goofy, still, but not terrible.

The story starts off with Chili Palmer (John Travolta) growing tired of the movie business. Out to lunch with an old mob friend turned music producer (James Woods), the two discuss a promising young singer who might make a good actress. Suddenly, the friend is shot dead by a Russian in a bad toupee.

Palmer, looking to get out of making movies, follows up on his friend’s tip and meets with the young woman (Christina Milian). A talented singer with a powerful voice, Palmer agrees to become her manager, but learns that she is stuck in a long-term contract with a pair of sleazy managers — Nicky (Harvey Keitel) and Raji (Vince Vaughn).

Teaming up with his friend’s widow, Edie (Uma  Thurman), Palmer’s attempts to get the young singer out of the contract lead to a series of plots to kill him, which include the Russian mob and a hip-hop record producer.

Be Cool starts off with some great cracks on Hollywood, but quickly turns its attention to the music industry. The image-crazed players in the music business come off far more insane that the movie people in Get Shorty, from Vaughn’s culturally confused Raji (a Jewish white man who thinks he’s a black gangster) to his bodyguard, Elliot (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who is clearly gay but doesn’t seem to realize it himself. The Rock is actually quite funny, and provides some of the film’s lighter moments, although one particular scene in which he is admiring himself in a mirror while trying on a suit goes on for a little too long.

Cedric the Entertainer plays Sin LaSalle, a big name producer surrounded by a gun-totting posse, and is probably the best character in Be Cool. There is clearly talent there, and I would really like to see him take a more dramatic turn. I also thought Andre 3000 was funny in his small role as the goofy henchman to LaSalle.

While I think Travolta and Thurman work well together on screen, all the cool that once inhabited Chili Palmer was lost here. This wasn’t the same guy we saw in Get Shorty. All the darker elements of the character seemed to be gone. The hard edge just wasn’t present. Palmer in Be Cool is softer. He smiles more than he should, and in the scenes were he’s supposed to be cold and tough, he seems to only be slightly chilled and mildly intimidating.

The extras are limited, but the “Gag Reel” is pretty funny. Mostly consisting of a series of montages with the actors dancing, there are some hilarious moments of actors flubbing lines and cars that don’t want to work.

Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 1 hr., 58 mins.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

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