By Vic Holtreman
Short version: Jack Black is awesome in this movie that starts out hysterically funny but veers off into sentimentality.
1. If it actually had been made on a shoestring budget by a couple of buddies.
2. If it had stuck with the premise of being a comedy all the way through to the end.
Aside from those points, it was still a great film.
Jack Black stars as Jerry, a uneducated slacker with big dreams who lives in a trailer. He's pals with Mike (played by Mos Def), a low-key guy without any big aspirations who works at one of the last few VHS video rental stores left in New Jersey.
Jerry gets electrocuted while trying to sabotage a power plant, the side effect of which is that he is now magnetized. He comes into the dollar video store where Mike is temporarily in charge and inadvertently erases all the videotapes in the store. Jerry is severely obnoxious and of course, oblivious to the fact.
When customers start returning videos to the store as defective, Mike discovers that the entire inventory is now useless. Mia Farrow plays an older woman who is keeping an eye on things while the owner (Danny Glover) is staying out of the picture, pretending to be out of town. She has only ever seen "chick flicks" but wants to watch Ghostbusters. Of course it's now erased but finding the store in disarray she threatens to report the situation to the owner if they don't get her a copy.
When Mike can't find a VHS version of it anywhere in town, Jerry comes up with the idea for them to film their own version of the movie. Oh, and they have about two hours to get it done.
What follows is a funny as hell flurry of improvisational filmmaking, as they wrap themselves in tin foil, use vacuum cleaners and hoses for the Ghostbuster backpacks and tinsel for the beams emanating from their ghost-catching devices.
They get it done in the nick of time and as it turns out she and the gang-banger friends of the young man living in her home like it as well. Jerry, Mike and a young lady (Melonie Diaz) they rope into working with them also do a version of Rush Hour 2 (no doubt better than the original) - word gets out and soon people are lining up to get their homemade versions of popular movies.
They end up charging $20 to "Swede" a movie - their term for doing a 20 minute cheesy version of popular movies. The store and their movies end up a huge hit until the evil Hollywood lawyer (Sigourney Weaver) shows up to sue them for copyright infringement and destroy all their custom creations.
Now the movie doesn't turn bad here, but unfortunately this is where the comedy pretty much stops and the film turns into a sentimental last ditch effort to save the building that houses the store from being condemned.
The owner of the store has always told Mike that Fats Waller was born in the building and grew up around the neighborhood. Being that "Fats" is a hero of Mike's, they decide to create an original movie about the man's life.
Now here is one thing that bugged me: They were creating a biographical movie about jazz pianist Fats Waller that was pretty much entirely fictional. In one scene Mia Farrow says:
"It's our past, we can change it."
Ah yes, welcome to the world of revisionist history.
The entire neighborhood comes together to enjoy the film and yes, it's a lump in your throat moment... but what happened to the laughs?
Overall it was enjoyable and I loved Jack Black's performance. When it's funny it's really funny, but just know that you won't be getting a beginning to end comedy if you go see this one.