Be Cool

BE COOL has exactly one cool ingredient: Dwayne Johnson. His smart handling of a camp gag role isn’t enough to save the sorry squandering that surrounds him, but at least he cracks a window to let some oxygen into a $53,000,000 basement-load of stale, smelly exhaust. Nine years after a winning combo of script, cast, director and production details made Get Shorty a hit, the 2005 followup does nearly everything wrong. Not just uncool, it’s anti-cool.

Get Shorty‘s ‘Chili Palmer’ (John Travolta) returns, by now an established player in the movie industry. Looking for a new world to conquer, he charm-bluffs his way into the music business. Setting things right for a producer friend (Uma Thurman) indebted to a hip-hop mogul (Cedric the Entertainer), Chili  pushes a new singer (Christina Milian) who’s under the contract thumb of a thuggish manager (Harvey Keitel). Doing so, he contends with hood-born gangstas, Russian mobsters, hit men, and a particularly loathsome punk (Vince Vaughan) who’s accompanied by his gay bodyguard (cue numerous insults). That guy’s done by Johnson, the sole engaging character and performance in a loud & flashy pot of ugly. Untethered from believability, wallowing in aggressive posing, unfunny to a fault, with extra pain inflicted by semi-songs from the fake-passion squawk haven of American Idol. Travolta, Thurman and Keitel can’t enliven it, Milian presents a great bod and surplus ‘tude to display in lieu of a character, Vaughan is obnoxious in the extreme.

Maybe Elmore Leonard’s 1999 book was enjoyable, but the only commendable thing about the thuddingly puerile, bash-laced script ralphed up by Peter Steinfeld (and no doubt pawed over by stars, producers and the director, F. Gary Gray) is the remarkable absence of the fallback-for-everything f-word usually f–d to death by lazy screenwriters in idea junkheaps like this. It’s used once, as a joke about itself being overused. Considering how dumb, smug, and casually offensive the rest of the material is, they may as well have f–ing loaded it up.

With a gasbag where a writing would normally vent, director Gray bloats it further with insipid drop-ins from Steven Tyler (ugh) & Aerosmith, The Black-Eyed Peas accompanied by Sergio Mendes, Gene Simmons (absent Kiss), Anna Nicole Smith (absent any excuse), Fred Durst, and The Pussycat Dolls. The vapid musical numbers are all of the screeched variety. Shots of Travolta & Thurman faking like they’re enjoying them don’t convince.

With Andre Benjamin, Robert Pastorelli (going grossly unpleasant), James Woods (in repellent mode), Danny DeVito (cameo), Debi Mazar (wasted, under a hairdo from someone who hated her), Arielle Kebbell, Seth Green.  Evaporating at 49th in the U.S. box office results of ’05, with a world total of $95,764,000. 118 minutes.



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