Be Cool (2005)

(In theaters, February 2005) John Travolta can ooze cool effortlessly, and this sequel to Get Shorty seems built around that fact. It’s deceptive, of course: the seamless direction of F. Gary Gray manages to keep dozens of plot balls in the air at once without it seeming difficult, but there’s a number of complications under the surface. The casting is impressive, but standouts include The Rock (playing against type), Christina Milian (in what could be a star-making turn as significant and Jennifer Lopez in Selena) and tons of cameos from all areas of Hollywood. It’s all good fun, from a film that really doesn’t want to be taken seriously. There are sour notes, of course: The insufferable Vince Vaughn, the vapid nature of the pop-culture references and the changes to the original book. In fact, those changes are so numerous and significant (simplification of characters, changes in relationships, hard rock music to vapid hip-hop) that they would almost be worth getting excited about if it wasn’t for the fact that the book keeps harping on how its own adaptation will do exactly that. Somewhere, Elmore Leonard is laughing and cashing his checks.

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