John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Cedric the Entertainer, Vince Vaughn
Despite huffing and puffing mightily, this lackluster sequel to 1995's hilarious Get Shorty never comes close to matching its predecessor. And that's a major disappointment given that Be Cool shares two ingredients that made the original so swell: a screenplay based on a dandy Elmore Leonard novel and a smoothly charming Travolta playing Chili Palmer, a gangster turned Hollywood producer.
In this new outing, Palmer opts to try the music business, shepherding the career of Linda Moon (Christina Milian), a talented young singer. Palmer's new occupation brings him into contact with various strenuously colorful types, including Russian gangsters, a gay bodyguard (the Rock) and a thuggish record producer (Cedric the Entertainer). Director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job) manages to make a few scenes involving these folks funny: a hitman's toupee comes off midway through a shooting, a gangsta rapper (OutKast's André Benjamin) sips tea with a delicately extended pinkie, and the hulking bodyguard recites girlish dialogue from the cheerleader flick Bring It On. But most lack punch and, more to the point, a point. One has the sense of actors doodling, amusing themselves and filling time. This is especially true when Travolta and Thurman (as Palmer's love interest, a record company exec) take to the dance floor, obviously hoping to reprise their terpsichorean magic from Pulp Fiction. This time, though, the rug that they're cutting seems faintly threadbare. (PG-13)