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Be Cool is cool enough

by Philip M. Nufer, Newswriting


I can’t be cool like Chili Palmer (John Travolta), and neither can you. No one can, so don’t even try. Chili doesn’t just embody cool – he defines cool. Chili can take the dull storyline of Be Cool and make it cool just by agreeing to be associated with it.

However, someone needs to tell John Travolta that we all remember the fact that he can dance and that he doesn’t need to insert pointless, extended dance sequences into all of his films to remind us. All they do is bring the action to a screeching halt while Travolta and his dance partner of choice strut and strike poses on a dance floor for several minutes of minimalist, nondance movements. Be Cool, the sequel to Get Shorty, contains just such a scene, and it adds nothing to the story except allowing audience members time for a restroom break, if needed.

In the film, Chili Palmer is an ex-wiseguy turned film producer. He has an uncompromising, though not entirely legal, sense of justice and an oddly zenlike ability to be the master of anyone or any situation, even when the situation is a gun pointed at his head. That’s where the loopy chain of events begins, as Chili is explaining to record label owner Tommy Athens (James Woods) that he is fed up with the film business, and is setting his sights on the music industry, a hit man with bad aim and an even worse toupee takes out both Athens and Chili’s Cadillac.

Chili breaks into the music industry easily thanks to Tommy’s tip on a talented singer-songwriter, Linda Moon (Christina Milian) and help from Tommy’s wife, Edie (Uma Thurman), whom Chili has always fancied. As he starts to guide Moon’s career, feathers are ruffled and everyone is soon gunning for him. Fearless and well tailored, Chili handles them all in the same effortless way he did filmmakers. Next thing you know Linda is on stage at the Staples Center singing a duet with Aeorosmith’s Steve Tyler.

The movie is saturated with celebrities. A parade of supporting actors are hung out to dry in one-joke roles: Vince Vaughn, The Rock, Andrea 3000, and Cedric the Entertainer.

Vaughn plays a forcefully obnoxious pimp who thinks he’s African American. The Rock is his gay bodyguard who aspires to a career as a country-western singer. Andre 3000, named Dabu, is a loose-lipped gun toting “gangsta” severely lacking etiquette. Cedric plays a highly educated suburban dad who makes his living as a thuggish record producer.

Complicating things are the Russian mob, and a few cops keeping Chili in their crosshairs. These scenes felt tacked on. The nameless, accented characters serve the same purpose as robots in a science fiction movie—they can get blown away without sacrificing any stars or feeling any emotion.

Minus the laughs, this pointless yet entertaining picture amounts to a continuous loop of self-styled “players” trying to be cool and failing. You will likely forget this movie two hours after viewing it.

There isn’t anything deep or meaningful about Be Cool, which actively encourages us not to take it too seriously. It is diverting, generally likeable, and sometimes startlingly hilarious. It’s fluff, but good fluff.


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