The last time John Travolta and Uma Thurman got together on the screen, they worked movie magic. Though this time there are no uncomfortable silences, the sparks just don't fly, the movie doesn't entertain and even the musical sequences fail to sizzle. Perhaps that is because director F. Gary Gray is no Quentin Tarantino, and the self referential, quasi quirkiness of the characters is shallow and drenched of any entertainment value.
Travolta's uneasy Chilli Palmer, last seen as movie producer cum loan shark in the original 'Get Shorty' from a decade ago, wants out of the movie business and into the music industry. Coercing him into the transition is his friend Tommy Athens (James Woods) who is gunned down soon after they meet, by a squad of Russian mobsters due to unpaid debts. Despite the tragedy and the obvious volatility of the industry, Palmer hooks up with Tommy's wife Edie (Thurman), whisks away a talented R&B star (Christina Milian) from her sordid manager Raji (the always dependable Vince Vaughn) and his gay bodyguard (The Rock) and has the wrath of the likes of characters played by Cedric the Entertainer, Andre 3000 and Harvey Keitel or the companionship of Steven Tyler and Danny Devito (making little more than a cameo) to back him up on his quest.
When big name stars usually populate a film they collectively strive to make their presence felt. 'Be Cool' is no different. When the characters aren't making inconsequential banter about someone else or trying to prove their insiders knowledge about how things work in the business and what it takes to get through it, there is very little happening to allow viewers any real reason to be listening to these conversations. The sleaze filled music world and the underlying schematics of making money as the only motive behind all interactions is portrayed as satire that fails to resonate humorously. Travolta is himself, nothing more nothing less and Thurman is out of place in the way she looks up to the sky with false excitement every time she hears a work of musical genius or meets a musical performer. The idea of getting a rock star to vouch for the work of an R&B star is absurd, no matter how fluidly the movie tries to pull it off with a less than stellar concert performance.
The cornucopia of product placements just points at the wrong attempts to leverage its hip-ness by milking as many pop culture references as possible. Which makes me question who the audience for this movie really is. It caters to neither the sensibilities of the music industry (too superficial) or the movie industry (too superfluous). - Faizan Rashid