Be cool? Come on... Give us a break. For most of its vast length, this overblown Get Shorty follow-up barely even manages to reach lukewarm.
It all starts so promisingly, too. For the first 15 minutes everything's heading in the right direction - Travolta looks born for Chili's butter-soft black suit, the segue to the music biz is slick and the dialogue is quotably delicious ("If you don't want to get an 'R' rating you can only use the 'F' word once," drawls Chili, as he explains just what he hates about the movie industry. "You know what I say? Fuck that!").
But then the wheels come spinning off. The core idea - that Chili decides to help singer Linda Moon escape from crooked manager Raji (Vince Vaughn) - is solid, but the story execution reeks of aimless, clichéd self-indulgence.
As Ocean's Twelve proved, sometimes more famous faces make for less of a movie. As the character count rises - Harvey Keitel's promoter; The Rock's gay failed actor; Robert Pastorelli's hired killer; Cedric The Entertainer's gangsta rap leader; Uma Thurman's sexy record-label owner - the story quality plummets. A big-name director might have had the clout to insist that, no, we weren't going to waste time watching The Rock trying on boots or Vince Vaughn (playing a smalltime `tough guy') preening up his ghetto fabulous look. Not F Gary Gray, though. Seemingly starstruck by the big names, the Italian Job director lets his cast do whatever the hell they like. The result is a movie that doesn't so much have a narrative arc as a lazy, time-consuming squiggle.
But annoying though that is, it's not even the worst thing about Be Cool. No, that's the fact that no-one involved has the slightest idea of just what `cool' is. Travolta's understated hardass starts with the look of Pulp Fiction's Vincent Vega, but by the finish he's become little more than Forrest Gump with a left hook. Everyone blares on about how great Linda Moon's singing is, but audiences will immediately ID her as just another placid Norah Jones clone the first moment she opens her mouth.
Be Cool's rappers are about a decade out of date but they're bang on the pulse compared to its OAP rockers. When Chili decides that pairing Linda with (wait for it) Steven Tyler and Aerosmith will rocket her to the big time, anyone who's bought a CD in the last decade will be reaching for their coats.
God preserve us from a third film. It'll probably have Chili breaking into the videogame industry by reviving Pac-Man or trying to make it as a sports agent by promoting a big-budget croquet match. This is a franchise that needs whacking - right here, right now.
A by-the-numbers sequel that doesn't even have the energy to be dreadful. In fact, just the sort of film that the Chili Palmer of Get Shorty hated.
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