February 28, 2006
Be Cool (2005)
By DAVE HILLHOUSE -- SLAM! Wrestling
Starring: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Harvey Keitel, The Rock
The most tragic thing about Be Cool's serious lack of quality and innovation of storytelling is that it sullies the name of its brilliantly 'super cool' predecessor Get Shorty, and it continues the astounding tradition of sequels failing to do anything to justify their existence. In Get Shorty, there's a charm surrounding the way Chili Palmer (John Travolta) gracefully sidesteps his way around trouble, making you believe that only he could truly accomplish what he does. In Be Cool, this turns into a half-hearted, wholly boring journey whereby Palmer doesn't have to lift a finger to try and achieve his goals -- everything he wants is merely dropped in his lap instead.
An example of this comes in the way in which Palmer is trying to kickstart the career of a singer, Linda Moon (Christina Milian) whom he believes is as talented as anyone he's ever seen. This is a lesson in storytelling: the script that Palmer is trying to push into production in Get Shorty is not read or performed until the very end, so the audience believes it must be brilliant because everybody says it is. Milian, though talented, can't possibly blow us away to the extend that we believe she is the monster star-in-waiting that she's supposed to be -- her performances leave the audience flat and unconvinced of the plot central driving force.
The film's problems, on the other hand, left the door wide open for someone to steal the show. With a cast as decorated as what is assembled for Be Cool, it was a surprise to many that it was The Rock (Doom, The Rundown) who walked away from this disaster not only unscathed, but on a fast track to stardom. The Rock relished the fact that in playing Eliot Wilhelm, the flamboyantly gay bodyguard, he is purposefully crossing the line of everyone's expectations.
In an interview found on Dark Horizons, he acknowledges the risk he was taking: "Actors always wait for that role to be fearless, where they can jump off the cliff, and for me that was this role." Be Cool did more than challenge The Rock's acting ability, however. It officially announced him to the world of motion pictures as someone to watch.
Dave Hillhouse is a screenwriter and teacher, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org -- SLAM! Wrestling.