Be Cool (2/10)

by Tony Medley

As I was exiting the screening, the young lady in front of me turned to her companion and said, “Stupid,” and she wasn’t talking about her companion. That about sums up this squalid piece of nonsense that trivializes murder and violence.

A sequel to the mildly entertaining “Get Shorty” (1995) which rejuvenated John Travolta’s dormant career, “Be Cool” is disjointed and not particularly funny. “Get Shorty” had the advantage of having Gene Hackman in the cast, which generally at least adds quality to the movie. Actually, taking Hackman’s place as sort of a co-star is Vince Vaughn, who, along with The Rock’s right eyebrow, the flashy color, and one short segment in which Travolta dances, are the only good things about this film. Vaughn plays Raji a white guy who talks like he’s black. It’s funny for awhile, but Vaughn stays in character for the entire film and finally gets tiresome.

Travolta is Chili Palmer once again, but this time he’s trying to get in the music business, which gets him involved with Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer) and a bunch of stereotyped black rapper-hoodlum types who carry big guns. The Rock plays Elliot Wilhelm who is so gay that when he does a video of him singing to give to Chili to break into the movies he’s singing “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” a song clearly meant to be sung by a woman.

Although studios will deny it, I’m convinced they hire professional laughers as shills for some of these screenings. I have been seated next to the same guy at least three times who laughs deep, loud belly laughs at things that aren’t even remotely funny. I was stuck in the same row with him at this screening and his inane laughter at nothing made a bad movie worse.

There’s no purpose to try to synopsize the plot because it’s so idiotic and incoherent that I couldn’t if I had to. Right at the beginning Chili tells his erstwhile buddy, Tommy Athens (James Woods), that a story idea Athens is pitching him “has a bad premise,” indicating that Chili didn’t learn much in “Get Shorty” because what Tommy was pitching didn’t have any premise at all I guess that screenwriter Peter Steinfeld thought he could throw in a big word his script shows he doesn’t understand and that nobody would notice.

Chili himself is a man without emotion or fear. He walks into dangerous situations without a second thought and always emerges unscathed. Apparently there are lots of characters in the film who want to eliminate him, but when they have the chance, when he’s in their lairs unarmed and unprotected, they don’t raise a finger.

Not only is the film nonsensical, I don’t understand John Travolta. I’m beginning to suspect he’s not a candidate to become a nuclear physicist. He clearly has the aura of a star. He’s a big man. He’s attractive. He can dance. He’s a pretty good actor. He’s got loads of charisma. But he continues to pick scripts that can only be described as woeful. Add to that the fact that he still insists on inserting at least one smoking scene in all his films, and one wonders what I.Q lurks beneath the Hollywood Star surface. If he’d wise up he would look for a script that includes a lot of dancing because the best part of the man is that he is an exceptional dancer.

The color is good and Travolta shows that he is a master of the dance floor in a ballroom scene with Thurman, but, in the end, this is nothing more than glitzy trash.

March 2, 2005