Few studio directors can get away with making a movie about how movie studios are completely unnecessary. To do so, you’d have to be charming, whimsical, and possibly French.
Enter Michel Gondry, the fanciful director of Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. His newest movie, Be Kind Rewind, shows that it’s creativity and imagination that make a good film—not a Hollywood budget. He basically says you’re better off getting out in your neighborhood with a home camcorder and some oak tag sets. And, it seems, people are listening.
Be Kind Rewind is about a down-on-its-luck video store in Passiac, NJ. When all of the tapes in the store get accidentally erased, the two leads (played by Mos Def an Jack Black) try to re-create all the movies themselves, using ultra-low-budget techniques and homemade sets. Football pads and hairdryers become Robocop costumes, the pair reenacts Ghostbusters with tin-foil suits and plastic garbage bags. The customers don’t buy it, but they like the films anyway, and soon the whole town gets into the act of cheaply replenishing the world’s last supply of VHS rentals.
Even before Be Kind Rewind came out, the idea of making ten-minute, no-budget remakes of Hollywood blockbusters became popular on the Internet. For some reason, which is only half-explained even in the film, these became known as “sweded” movies. (Ah, Sweden. First you give us Abba. Then you give us Ace of Base. Now, unbeknownst to you, you’ve given us homemade movie parodies.)
If you go to the official Be Kind Rewind website, you can watch the movies sweded in the film (and you should definitely check out their take on Rush Hour 2). Yet everywhere else on the Internet, you can find all sorts of movies sweded by regular people. Fan-sweded films so popular, it’s getting hard to keep track of them, but this site is putting up a valiant effort. They’ve catalogued more than 120 remakes. And, in a move that can only be described as meta, Michel Gondry has sweded himself, re-doing his own Be Kind Rewind trailer by playing all the parts. (See the official trailer here, and Gondry’s sweded version here.)
In the film, Jack Black argues that the sweded films are better than the originals. I don’t know about that—but it might be fun to try. So, have at it. Hollywood is your oyster. Your backyard is your backlot. Cardboard is your friend. What big-budget film do you think could benefit from being sweded? Any ideas for how to build sets, props, and costumes? Have you sweded a film already? Let me know in the comments.