Release Date:  March 4, 2005
Rating:  PG-13 (for action violence, language and rude humor)
Genre:   Comedy/Action/Family
Run Time:  91 min.
Director:   F. Gary Gray
Actors:      John Travolta, Uma Thurman, James Woods, Harvey Keitel, Christina Milian, Vince Vaughn, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Robert Pastorelli, Cedric the Entertainer, Andre “3000” Benjamin,

I’ve got a great idea for a movie.  Let’s take a hit film and copy it.  Keep the same characters – but change them just a little.  Keep the same plot – but change it just a little.  Keep all the same jokes.  And drop the talented director, who made the original movie so good.  Instead, get someone who’s done mostly music videos – yeah, that’s it – and some really bad films.  Then, the same people who came to the first movie will come to the second one and love it just as much.  And we’ll all get rich.  Again.

That’s pretty much the recipe for “Be Cool,” and as obvious as it is to the rest of us that this is a sure-fire formula for failure, this sequel still got made.

Chili Palmer (John Travolta), the shylock (loan shark) turned movie producer, is still in Hollywood, churning out sequels.  But he’s bored, so when an associate who owns a record company, Tommy Athens (James Woods), tells him about a promising young R&B singer named Linda Moon (Christina Milian), Chili decides to go into the music business.  But before they can do the deal, Tommy is murdered in a drive-by shooting by a bunch of toupee-wearing Russians who need to spend some time on the firing range.  Chili escapes unharmed, but fires up another set of gangsters when he strolls into the offices of Linda’s manager, music mogul Nick Carr (Harvey Keitel), and says he’s taking her contract.

Nick instructs his henchman, Raji (Vince Vaughn), who thinks he’s black, to take out Chili.  Raji hires a hit man, Joe Loop (Robert Pastorelli) to do the job, but Joe has a bad habit of taking out the wrong guy.  So Raji and his gay driver/bodyguard (The Rock) decide to do it themselves.  Meanwhile, Chili has sweet-talked Tommy’s widow, Edie (Uma Thurman) into making Linda Moon’s record.  Unfortunately, however, Edie’s record label is in huge debt, thanks to her dead hubby, and Sin LaSalle (Cedric the Entertainer) doesn’t want to wait for his money.  Yet another music executive, Sin drives around town with a posse of Hummers full of henchmen/gangsta rappers, including Dabu (Andre Benjamin, of “Outkast”), who’s just itching to kill somebody.  Sin gives Edie and Chili three days to come up with the cash.

“Be Cool” is a sequel to “Get Shorty,” Quentin Tarantino’s ultra-popular 1995 film based on the book by Elmore Leonard, a crime fiction author.  Unfortunately, this film is what gives sequels a bad name.  It has almost the same cast, almost the same plot and the exact same jokes, and it’s just not funny.  Maybe something to do with the need to be original, what do you think?  It’s also disappointing to see two very good actors – Travolta and Thurman – give bad performances.  Unlike his first role as Chili, Travolta seems to be sleepwalking through this role.  And Thurman, as good as she is, just plain overacts as Edie, the dumb blonde.

All of the other characters are caricatures.  Cedric the Entertainer and his guys are way over the top, although Andre Benjamin is lovably stupid.  I have no idea what the Russians want or why they are in this movie, but they also overact.  Harvey Keitel doesn’t stand out at all, and where Vince Vaughn started off as funny, as the Ebonics-speaking white guy decked out in gold chains and matching sweat suit gear, he grows more annoying by the minute.  You have to hand it to the guy, though.  He sure isn’t afraid of making a fool of himself (think “Dodgeball”).