Stayin’ Cool

Thunderous laughter erupted through every hollow crevice of the theater during the new F. Gary Gray film, Be Cool. Audience members young and old found something to make them smile in this flashy comedy.

Based on the novels of Elmore Leonard, Be Cool is the sequel to the 1995 film Get Shorty. Director Gray creates another audience pleaser. He has had luck in the past with films such as The Italian Job and Friday. In the same tradition, Be Cool is an eye-candy, cameo-packed couple of hours of satire-laced laughs.

The story opens with Chili Palmer (John Travolta) having a meeting with music mogul Tommy Athens (James Woods). Tommy is pitching a movie to Chili based on his life. In the midst of selling himself, some unfriendly Russian mobster’s gunfire puts an abrupt end to Tommy’s story.

Chili visits Tommy’s widow Edie (Uma Thurman) with somewhat selfish motives. Chili is tired of movies and wants to break into the music business by helping Edie run Nothing to Lose Records. Before his demise, Tommy told Chili about a new female singer he wanted to sign, Linda Moon (Christina Milian). Linda is part of an all-girl group and under the management of Raji (Vince Vaughn). Raji’s effeminate bodyguard, Elliot Willhelm (The Rock), makes it difficult for Chili to terminate Linda’s contract with Carousel Records.

The problems for Chili increase once news of Tommy’s death is reported. Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer) is angered due to the $300,000 owed to him by NTL Records for remixing some songs. From here the film travels, telling the story of Chili and Edie launching Linda’s career, saving the record label, paying Sin, meeting Steven Tyler, getting Elliot a film audition and avoiding the Russian Mafia. In the end, all of the characters collide and much hilarity ensues.

The first and most outstanding feature of the film is the cast. Be Cool has some of the hottest actors and musicians in the game. Travolta and Thurman bring their Pulp Fiction chemistry to the screen again. And what would a Travolta film be without some dancing? Chili and Edie perform a modern tango set to the music of the Black Eyed Peas. Perhaps not as memorable as Jack Rabbit Slim’s twist contest, but it is still fun to watch the rhythmic sparks fly.

The two standout characters are Raji (changed from Roger to sound more street) and Elliot. Vaughn brings his typical fast-talking sarcasm with a wannabe-thug slant. For a comedy novice, The Rock does well holding his own against Vaughn and actually steal some of the scenes.

Music plays a huge role in Be Cool. Milian and Tyler have limited lines, but rock out in their musical performances. On the other hand, Andre 3000 of OutKast has few lines and sadly he does not perform.

The film effectively laughs in the face of the music and movie industry. It shows how ridiculous Hollywood can get with some of their ideas. Jokes are made at the expense of MTV, big record labels, and hip-hop gangsters.

Be Cool is not to be taken seriously. If your studies have jumbled your brain and you want a couple of hours of mindless entertainment, this film is for you. Keep an eye out for the surprise cameos and stay through the credits for outtakes for a few extra laughs.

Rating: B-
Comedy, PG-13, Running time: 114 min.