This is Michel Gondry's delightful ode to handmade DIY craftsmanship at it's finest. The story concerns a bumbling goofball named Jerry who, after becoming magnetized in an unlikely way accidentally erases all the VHS tapes at a declining video store where his friend Mike works. To fix the situation, the two decide to make remakes of all the movies, using themselves and makeshift special effects in a fashion they call "Sweding".
Surprisingly, their no-budget remakes become a hit and actually start to help bring the store out of decline. There are some other issues being dealt with in the film though, and that's both positive and negative. This film tries to do a lot of things, perhaps too many. Not only is it about Sweding, but it also tackles the economic decline of Passaic, New Jersey, and its multicultural population. It also deals with an original film about Fats Waller that Mike and Jerry and the neighborhood residents are forced to make due to legal issues.
You can't fault Gondry for trying to be ambitious, but I think the film is a little overstuffed and a bit undercooked in places as a result. The remake scenes actually aren't really the focus, despite what the marketing campaign would have you believe. Those sequences are some of the best in the film though, especially the single take montage wherein a half dozen films get Sweded.
The film does have his usual, whimsical, quirky touches, and you can really tell this is a film that was designed to strike a chord with anyone who ever tried to make a film regardless of talent, money, or various other factors. This is all about making do with what you have, and that's really why this film works so well. It's just too damn charming not to enjoy.
Jack Black gets manic, but his performance here is closer to High Fidelity than his usual shtick. Def, despite being somewhat unintelligible at times, is also pretty good, and I really like seeing him work as an actor, even though his music career is his real strength. Danny Glover and Mia Farrow give some really fun supporting roles, as does Melonie Diaz. Of course, a little Sigourney Weaver cameo doesn't hurt either.
All in all, a good, but choppy little piece of work. Despite its shortcomings, I really do dig this, and definitely give it a solid recommendation.