Be Cool
Grade: C
Year: 2005
Director: F. Gary Gray
Writers: Elmore Leonard and Peter Steinfeld
Genre: Comedy
Rated: PG-13
By Scott (Editor)

Dry and mundane, the star-packed comedy "Be Cool" isn't as cool as it wants to be. It's not as cool as its 1995 original, "Get Shorty." Hell, it's not as cool as 2005's Hitch.

John Travolta returns as Chili Palmer, a name that is definitely cool played by someone who is most definitely cool. He decides on a whim that he's no longer interested in movies and would now like to run a recording label.

When his good friend Tommy (James Woods), president of his own label, gets whacked by the mob, Chili joins forces with the widowed Edie Athens (Uma Thurman) and begins looking for talent to save the spiraling record company.

It doesn't take long to discover the young singer named Linda Moon (Christina Milian from last week's Man of the House), and as soon as he hears her performing at a less-than-prestigious nightclub, he decides that he must sign her. She is more than willing to come aboard.

The problem is that Linda is currently obligated to a five-year contact under the management of Raji (an unbelievably annoying Vince Vaughn), an obviously white manager who never looked in the mirror as a child and a result pretends to be black. It's a routine that's been done before, many times, and much cooler.

Raji is partners with Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel), a dirty businessman who's been working out contract-killing jobs with the Russian mob in order to ease the competition. But by the way these guys operate it's hard to believe that the Russian mob has been able to survive this long.

Then we throw in Sin LaSalle played by Cedric the Entertainer (also from Man of the House among other titles) as a rival label head who runs a band of slapstick gangster wannabes...only to later denounce racial epithets in a serious monologue.

All of this must have sounded great on paper and perhaps funny in this review; if only that were the case on the screen. It's surprisingly stale and has a hard time finding rhythm as it's constantly being interrupted by musical performances similar to what you see on sketch comedy television.

So while the Russian mob is looking for targets and Sin for his missing $300,000 owed to him, Chili's been trying to get his new talent recognized and arranges a meeting with Aerosmith's Steven Tyler. Tyler as you would expect plays himself in a role that suggests the acting in the family is best left to his daughter, Liv.

The movie isn't all bad. On a good note, Andre 3000 of OutKast got a laugh from me, playing Dabu who realizes a couple of misfires too late that he should never be trusted with a handgun. I also enjoyed The Rock playing a gay bodyguard, whacking people just to pay the rent until he can land an acting audition or two. Acting is his passion, but just like everyone else who works for Raji, such dreams are hard to come by.

Just when you think the movie might be going somewhere, "Be Cool" struggles to find the right nostalgic pitch by reuniting Travolta with Thurman on the dance floor reminding us of "Pulp Fiction" and the better days. It's not that we don't like them dancing, again, it's just that the film forgets there is more than an hour left to go by the time it leaves us watching these two dance for an entire Black Eyed Peas number. The second time I glanced at my watch was during an entire Aerosmith number, and then again during an entire Linda Moon solo number.

It's a shame that this film with all it's potential fails to pass the standards of even the most basic comedies. Aside from a few charming moments and chuckle-induced overacting, you'd be much cooler if you were seen walking into a different movie.

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