With a sterling cast headed by John Travolta, “Be Cool” is based on author/ producer Elmore Leonard’s sequel to Elmore Leonard’s “Get Shorty.” In both, Travolta plays Chili Palmer the loan shark who came to La-La Land to muscle a film producer and winds up becoming a film producer himself. In the sequel, Chili has grown sick of the movie biz (“I hate sequels”) and jumps feet first into the “gangsta” world of music production.
“Be Cool” begins with music producer Tommy Athens (James Woods) pitching Chili a film concept shortly before he is “off’ed” by a bad-shot, bad-toupee Russian mobster. Chili quickly scoops up Tommy’s widow Edie (Uma Thurman), along with his upcoming singing sensation, Linda Moon (Christina Milian), and is headed toward MTV heaven.
However, he has a few minor obstacles: Moon’s former manager Nick (Harvey Keitel), Tommy’s partner Raji (Vince Vaughn) and gangsta rap impresario Sin La Salle (Cedric the Entertainer) with his gun-toting posse. At various times during the two-hours of movie time, the “obstacles” want to kill Chili, who always sweet-talks his way out of any sticky situation (hence, the title, “Be Cool”).
Featured are several embarrassing moments by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a gay bodyguard, who wants to be a star, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who is far better singing than saying lines. Not following his own sage advice, Tyler concedes he doesn’t need to be in a movie at this stage of his career. That and Travolta’s remark about sequels are two of many unfunny, self-mocking moments in the movie.
“Be Cool” looks like it may have been great fun for the cast as they were making it, particularly judging from their hip-hop dancing during the end title crawl. However, it’s not fun to sit through two hours of self-indulgence by overpaid stars encouraged to act like clowns.
Best to sit this one out (at home), as Travolta and Thurman should have done instead of the disappointing return-to-“Pulp Fiction” dance number that they’re using to promote “Be Cool.”