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The novel Be Cool, written by Elmore Leonard in 1999 while the ink was still wet on the publisher's advance, existed only because the beloved writer of seedy thrillers and Westerns knew it was guaranteed gold -- the sequel to the 1991 hit novel Get Shorty that, in 1995, became a hit movie starring John Travolta as shylock turned movie producer Chili Palmer. Nothing about the book or the subsequent film written by Scott Frank and directed by Barry Sonnenfeld warranted a sequel.

Be Cool, the novel, was Leonard at his slightest -- one long wink at the reader, a failed sequel all about failed sequels that barely could muster the energy to be self-loathing. Between the flaccid lines recited by returning characters (Palmer, most notably) and ones who only felt familiar, the novel reviewed itself; "I was against doing a sequel in the first place," Chili says on page two, groaning about how greed and unoriginality make lousy playmates.

The movie is redundant to the point of being absolutely pointless, a sequel that's almost a note-for-note, beat-for-beat redo of its predecessor, only with all the entertaining stuff left out.

It's a hustle and a cheat, front-loaded with recognizable faces (James Woods as the record-company owner offed in the first scene, Harvey Keitel as the payola-grubbing promoter, Vaughn as the white music-bizzer who thinks he's blacker than Quentin Tarantino, Cedric the Entertainer as Ivy League-educated rap mogul Sin LaSalle, Outkast's André Benjamin as an inept gangsta, Danny DeVito reprising his role as actor Martin Weir, Aerosmith as Aerosmith).

Remember Bear, the sweet and sensitive bodyguard played by James Gandolfini in Get Shorty? He's now a gay Samoan bodyguard named Elliot, played by the Rock. Perhaps you recall Karen, the B-movie actress who really wanted to produce, played by Rene Russo? She's now Edie, a widowed former Vegas showgirl who really wants to produce, played by Uma Thurman. The list is endless, much like Be Cool itself, which has more fakeout finales than Return of the King. Toss in some Russian mobsters and a wannabe pop diva named Karen Moon and there's barely enough room left to breathe, much less find a character worth caring about or a plot strand worth worrying over.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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