Be Cool

By Mark Ramsey | 2005/03/05

Any movie that clips James Woods in the first fifteen minutes is okay by me. I’m just amazed coffee and cigarettes didn’t explode out of his open wounds.

Be Cool is the sequel to Get Shorty which might as well be Get Short Pants considering how long it’s been since the original.

So what, Shorty was on the big screen when most of today’s movie-goers were playing with blocks while The Lion King looped in the VCR. But what else does MGM have to sequelize besides Bond and Clouseau? Anchors Aweigh 2? ANOTHER American in Paris? Meet Me AGAIN in St. Louis ?John Travolta is Chili Palmer, and Chili is cool. So cool, even becool_dance2.jpg

Chris O’Donnell’s career would need to hold a cold one against its sweaty head to compare.

It’s the kind of cool that comes from breaking the rules, although in this case the only rule broken is the no-smoking-in-nightclubs one. Did bad-boy Chili jaywalk or mix the recyclables with the non’s? No matter, he’s COOL, dawg!

Uma Thurman is a failing music label exec with an eye for Annie Hall-era fashion and a passion for Aerosmith. Sadly, admitting you’re an Aerosmith groupie is like saying you’re a huge believer in stirrup pants.

Chili, you see, has given up the movie business that I forgot he was in to venture into the music business, because wiseguys always have the inside track on what tracks best inside the music biz.

Into Hollywood’s notorious Viper Room strides Travolta. But ground zero for LA cool is host to a Big Ups to the Boomers Bash with a girl group singing the 70′s hit “Best of My Love.”

At the Viper Room?!

Who’s down the street at the Whisky A Go-Go, The Captain and Tenille?

To quote one patron, the great River Phoenix, “If 70′s kitsch ever invades the Viper Room let me drop dead right this minute, right on this spot.”

Naturally, Uma and John dance together. Because if you’re paying for Uma and John, you’re paying for them to dance – even if you have to shoot a pistol at their feet and yell becool_whatswrong.jpg

“dance!” – which is exactly what an agent is for.

On this Planet of the Record Weasels, Cedric the Entertainer, a man whose very name promises more than it delivers, is Weasel Numero Uno.

And Harvey Keitel makes his characteristic appearance as a Music biz thug who looks like Bono and talks like Bono’s about to give some Brooklyn punk a knuckle sandwich.

Enter songstress Christina Milian. As Travolta says, “her voice is off the chain,” and he sure doesn’t mean the chain between “lip” and “synching.”

This movie tries ever so hard to convince us that sliced bread has nothing on the dubious talents of Ms. Milian. That not only can she walk on water, but she can suspend herself in mid-air over water, as long as she doesn’t have to sing live and unassisted over water.

Much to their credit, The Rock and Outkast’s André 3000 shine in revelatory supporting roles. I’ll tell you this: when a pro wrestler and the singer of Hey Ya are this good at acting, it’s time for you and me to get better representation.

Suddenly, a gargoyle cracks off of Notre Dame cathedral, tumbles to the ground, and is immediately cast as Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler.

With more mileage than a ’79 Chevy, Steven’s face blows up to the big screen, and in the audience an old timer shouts “get the pan!” when he recognizes in the craggy terrain of this face a map to California Gold!

“I can turn your world on with a smile,” said Steven, who now looks more like Mary Tyler Moore than Mary does.

With Steven’s face filling the screen, terrified throngs dashed out of the theater, fleeing as if Godzilla was smashing train cars behind them, and each of those cars was playing Dream On for the ten-zillionth time.

The climax, and I use that term loosely, comes when Aerosmith takes the stage in front of what appears to be an audience of golfers and pharmaceutical sales reps. 50,000 fans chanting “LIPITOR!” can’t be wrong.

Except in this case.

Travolta’s strategy, you see, is to launch Christina Milian’s career by getting her in a duet onstage with Aerosmith. Forget the fact that the last career Aerosmith launched was Alicia Silverstone’s. At least it’s a rare big-screen opportunity to view the musical stylings of the harmonica.

Be Cool is a world where people break into homes, turn on the entertainment equipment, and hang out until you notice. It’s a world where an eye for talent begins and ends with likely American Idol backwash Christina Milian.

I actually enjoyed this movie. It’s clever and street-savvy. But its excesses drove me right to my edge.

So much do the filmmakers want to sell us on Milian as a newborn star, they should have taken the obvious step and had her deliver the final parting line:

“Hello everybody, this is Mrs. Norman Maine.”

Photos Copyright ©2005 MGM

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