Today’s flick is the 2005 sequel to Get Shorty, starring John Travolta: Be Cool.
The screenplay writer for Be Cool was Steven Steinfeld, who also penned the films 21, Drowning Mona, and Analyze That.
Be Cool was directed and produced by F. Gary Gray, who is currently slated to helm the assured blockbuster Furious 8, and has previous directing credits on the 2003 remake of The Italian Job, A Man Apart, Friday, and The Negotiator.
The cinematographer for the film was Jeffrey L. Kimball, whose other credits include Top Gun, True Romance, Jacob’s Ladder, and Paycheck.
The editor for Be Cool was Sheldon Kahn, who also cut the movies Space Jam, Junior, Twins, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
Outside of director F. Gary Gray, the team of producers for Be Cool included co-star Danny DeVito, Michael Siegel (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), Stacey Sher (Gattaca, Pulp Fiction), Michael Shamberg (Matilda, Garden State), David Nicksay (Flubber, Stay Tuned, Freejack), Linda Favila (Swordfish, Battlefield Earth), and Anson Downes (Wild Hogs, Old Dogs).
The makeup effects for the movie were provided by Michelle Bühler (Swordfish, Face/Off, The People Under The Stairs), Jeff Dawn (Deep Blue Sea, Jingle All The Way), Autumn Moultrie (Boston Legal), Kyra Panchenko (Glitter), and Laini Thompson (Demolition Man, Black Dynamite).
The special effects team for Be Cool included David Greene (Hollow Man, Red Dragon), James Lorimer (Van Helsing, Cellular, Marmaduke), Steve Austin (Nightcrawler, Interstellar, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2), Ronald W. Mathews (Blade, Serenity), Ken Pepiot (Small Soldiers, Predator 2), Elia P. Popov (Top Gear, The Fifth Element), Gintar Repecka (The Golden Child, Inspector Gadget), and Ken Rudell (State of Play).
The visual effects for the movie were provided in part by Adam Avery (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), Tyler Foell (Daredevil, Torque, Epic Movie, 12 Rounds), Mark Freund (Rollerball, Van Helsing), Bonnie Kanner (League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Green Lantern), Ray McIntyre Jr. (Red Planet, 12 Rounds), Liz Radley (Gigli, Death to Smoochy, Small Soldiers, On Deadly Ground), and Bob Wiatr (Wishmaster, Mystery Men).
The cast of Be Cool is made up of Uma Thurman (Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction), John Travolta (Swordfish, Face/Off, Battlefield Earth), Danny DeVito (Death to Smoochy, Throw Momma From The Train, War of the Roses), Harvey Keitel (Bad Lieutenant, Beeper, Pulp Fiction), Vince Vaughn (Swingers, Wedding Crashers, The Cell), Debi Mazar (Space Truckers), Steven Tyler (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Walking Tall, Furious 7, Doom), James Woods (Casino, Best Seller, Vampires, Cat’s Eye, Videodrome), Robert Pastorelli (Eraser, Sister Act 2, Dances With Wolves), Christina Milian (Pulse, Torque), Paul Adelstein (Private Practice, Prison Break), Gregory Alan Williams (Baywatch, The West Wing), Cedric The Entertainer (The Steve Harvey Show, The Honeymooners), and André Benjamin (Four Brothers, Revolver).
Disenchanted with the movie industry, Chili Palmer tries the music industry, meeting and romancing a widow of a music executive on the way.
Elmore Leonard wrote the novel of the same name on which Be Cool is adapted from, and gets a writing and producing credit for the story and concept as a result. Other works of his have been turned into films and television shows like Get Shorty, 3:10 To Yuma, Jackie Brown, and Justified.
Uma Thurman was apparently cast based on John Travolta’s recommendation. A number of other actresses were considered for the part, including Travolta’s Swordfish co-star Halle Berry, Charlize Theron, Naomi Watts, and Jennifer Connolly.
Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed Get Shorty, had every intention of directing this sequel, but had to back out due to scheduling conflicts caused by production delays. Once he left, apparently Brett Ratner was approached before F. Gary Gray was ultimately given the job.
Be Cool unfortunately proved to be actor Robert Pastorelli’s last film, as he died of an accidental drug overdose before the movie hit theaters.
Be Cool features cameos from the music and film industries anywhere they could cram them in. People that receive screen-time include Gene Simmons, Anna Nicole Smith, The Black Eyed Peas, the RZA, Aerosmith, Fred Durst, Wyclef Jean, and Sergio Mendes.
Be Cool was far from a critical success: currently, it holds a 5.6 rating on IMDb, alongside Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 30% from critics and 42% from audiences. Financially, however, it proved profitable: on a production budget of $53 million, it grossed just over $95 million in its worldwide theatrical release.
One of Be Cool‘s biggest weaknesses is that it lacks some of the charm of Get Shorty, because Travolta’s character isn’t really a fish out of water anymore, which was the core of the premise of the preceding film. Also, somewhat ironically, the movie suffers a bit from being too “cool”: the dialogue is executed with a little too much flow and suave, to the point that the characters don’t seem like human beings anymore.
Speaking of which, Be Cool is heavily weighed down by the sheer size of the cast: it is packed not only with characters, but also with a constant stream of cameos. On the surface this isn’t too much of a problem, but the issue comes when none of the characters get enough time to feel realistic, which is compounded by the dialogue issues mentioned previously. Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson, for example, are one-dimensional caricatures more than they are characters, which means most of the humor winds up coming from their wackiness, which is lazy and low for a film that should really be wittier.
The combination of Uma Thurman and John Travolta, which electrified audiences when they were working with Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue, is absolutely flat in Be Cool, which is almost surreal to see. The difference between their performances in Be Cool and Pulp Fiction certainly speaks volumes for how important dialogue writing is for actors to put in effective performances. If the foundation is shaky, the house isn’t going to be hold.
Overall, Be Cool is a shallow celebrity showcase that cashes in more on association with other movies than it creates anything unique or entertaining in its own right. It is totally watchable, but not terribly entertaining, as many Hollywood comedies wind up being. For people who really liked Get Shorty, it is worth seeing for the novelty of it. For everyone else, this is sort of a toss-up as to whether it is worth your time to sit through.