A wise child makes a glad father,
but a foolish child is a mother’s grief.
Director Michel Gondry’s goofy movie requires a lot of suspension of belief, but if you can achieve it, is amusing to watch. From the standpoint of Proverbs, virtually all of the film’s characters must have grieving mothers, judging by their beliefs and actions. We will start with the owner of the New Jersey VHS shop that lends its name to the movie, Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover). He seems ignorant of the new DVD technology, convinced that tape will always be the preferred technology for watching movies. Besides, he is barely hanging on to his shop in the building that has been condemned as unsafe. Part of Jerry’s reason for refusing to move is his belief that jazz great Fats Waller was born in a room just above the shop
When Mr. Fletcher says that he has to go out of town, leaving his assistant Mike (Mos Def) in charge, he gives strict orders that neighborhood nemesis Jerry (Jack Black) not be allowed in the store. (Actually, Jerry goes to snoop at West Coast Video to discover why they are thriving: a measure of his brain power is that it does not occur to him that it is due to their abandoning VHS tapes and renting DVDs instead.) Mike should have listened to his boss more closely. Jerry, employed at a junk yard, believes that the local power generator located next to his junkyard is affecting his brain, so one night he tries to sabotage it. The result is that he receives such a shock that his body is lit up like a neon sign and is magnetized. The next day he goes to the shop to see his friend Mike and ignores Mike’s order to stay out. Passing up and down the shelves of tapes, he unknowingly demagnetizes all of them.
When steady customer Miss Falewicz (Mia Farrow) rents Ghostbusters and discovers it is just a static-filled tape, she returns it. To his horror Mike discovers that not only this title, but all of the tapes in the store have been erased by Jerry. Other customers also want to rent tapes, so he and his friend put them off, telling them to come back the next day. Their bright idea is to shoot their own version of the films, which is where the fun really begins. Jerry scrounges cheap props from the junk yard and cons local beauty Alma (Melonie Diaz) to join the cast. Using a hi def camcorder, they turn out hilarious twenty-minute versions of such films as Ghostbusters, Rush Hour 2, Rocky, and Driving Miss Daisy. Turns out the customers, who are told that these are Swedish remakes of the originals, love them—one does not have to sit through all the boring parts to see the exciting scenes.
As I said, it takes a lot of suspension of belief to appreciate this little comedy. One tiny touch of reality is that the powers that be in Hollywood hear of the remakes and dispatch Lawson (Sigourney Weaver) to shut the store down. And of course, there is the developer who wants to tear down the building and gentrify the neighborhood. How our heroes and other neighborhood losers join together to defend their urban version of Brigadoon is fun to watch. The filmmakers also intersperse a number of clips of Fats Waller singing and pounding out his sassy tunes, making the film a treat for jazz fans. Michel Gondry has gifted us with what amounts to an urban fairytale in which “the first shall be last, and the last first.”