Cool’ is anything but

“Be Cool”


Directed by F. Gary Gray

Screenplay by Peter Steinfeld

Adapted from the novel by Elmore Leonard

Starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Harvey Keitel and Christina Milian

Rated PG-13/114 min

Opened in theaters March 4, 2005

One and a half out of four stars

Maybe “Scream” started the trend, maybe not-regardless, the genre of self-mocking movies that constantly winks at the audience inarguably exists. Case in point: Chili Palmer (John Travolta) in “Be Cool” says, “You know, you can only say the F-word once in a PG-13 movie. I say f*** that.” Wouldn’t you know it, “Be Cool” is rated PG-13 and never again do we hear the dreaded F-bomb. Ha!

That’s about as clever as the humor gets in “Be Cool,” a wheezy, aimless sequel to the highly admired 1995 hit “Get Shorty.”

Post-modern witticism existed long before “Scream,” of course-see Robert Altman’s “The Player” or, hell, even “Get Shorty” for superb examples. What Wes Craven’s insider-slasher flick did was drag brainy self-mockery to the level of “Friday the 13th,” effectively lowering the cinematic bar all around.

Which brings us back to “Be Cool,” a laundry line of scenes dripping wet with leftover suds from other, better movies.

Travolta is back as Chili Palmer, still up to his shylock movie producing ways in sunny Los Angeles. Sick and tired of the Hollywood rigmarole, Chili leaps into the music biz, a vicious world of bling-bling bang-bang.

Unfortunately, that’s about it. We get Uma Thurman as the widowed-wife of a record-producer. She and Travolta dance together in one scene, conjuring up echoes of “Pulp Fiction”-only this time the dance brings the story to a grinding halt.

Had the scene been either A) sexy or B) not a pale imitation of the much superior version in “Pulp Fiction,” it would have been easier to ignore the fact that it fails to advance the story in any particularly interesting direction.

We also get white guy Vince Vaughn playing a talent manager who thinks he’s a bad-ass black guy-which could have been funny, had the filmmakers taken it beyond mere caricature.

Let’s not forget Cedric the Entertainer and Andre 3000 as the hip-hop gangsters who drive their bass-thumping Humvees around town, waving guns in Chili’s face, and Harvey Keitel playing the same slick, professional tough guy he always plays.

The movie has a few bright spots: Christina Milian bubbles with life as Linda Moon, a tasty young singing talent Chili hopes to represent. The Rock plays a starry-eyed homosexual bodyguard who livens up every scene he’s in. However, even these characters are only half-baked ideas and parodies of The Hot Young Ingnue and, in the case of The Rock, himself.

“Be Cool,” directed by F. Gary Gray without the nifty visual flair he brought to “The Negotiator,” is a soulless assembly of character, quirk and violence, siphoned from movies that roared with life. Maybe next time the filmmakers should focus on story and character instead of the foggy memories of better stories and better characters.

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