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'Be Kind, Rewind'

Jack Black's magnetized brain — don't ask — accidentally erases a struggling, urban renewal-threatened video store's entire stock of VHS tapes early in this amiably scattered comedy, at which point Black teams up with his best bud (video clerk Mos Def) to shoot their own versions of Ghostbusters, Robocop and a few dozen other pictures.

To anyone who actually remembers VHS tapes, this may sound like a promising premise. But writer-director Michel Gondry lets the air out of it pretty quickly with a combination of over-strenuous whimsy and a gee-whiz plotline that has the store's clientele getting into the act in ways that would strike even Frank Capra as unlikely.

You have to love this flick's fondness for primitive filmmaking — by the last reel, the video store has more or less been reinvented as an old-time nickelodeon. But Gondry, who chronicled a different sort of mind-erasure in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, oddly doesn't deliver the one pleasure his premise seems to promise: He lets us see the making of the replacement films, complete with cardboard costumes and bargain-basement effects, but not the films themselves. (Though the truly devoted can at least find trailers for them — where else? — online.)

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.
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