A mob of angry customers storm the counter of their local video store, complaining that the VHS cassettes they've rented aren't the actual movies but cheap homemade reenactments. The plot of the new Jack Black comedy Be Kind Rewind? Not quite: This funny premise was actually the basis for a sketch on the popular Nickelodeon comedy series The Amanda Show, starring Amanda Bynes. Eight years ago.

The skit, which recently surfaced on YouTube, features Bynes and costar Drake Bell as a pair of clerks in a "Blockblister" video store who've replaced tapes of Austin Powers, The Wizard of Oz, Titanic and others with their own crappy, basement quality versions - just what Black and his costar, Mos Def, do in Be Kind Rewind, which was written and directed by video-wunderkind-turned-feature-director Michel Gondry ( The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Each time a customer complains, Amanda and Drake's boss argues in a comically heavy accent, "This movie better!" before the kids chime in with "Much better!" (and in this case, it's true: the skit is much better - and shorter - than Gondry's movie).



Michel, looks like you've got some 'splaining to do. Or does he? The irony here is that Gondry's film imagines a world - Passaic, New Jersey, actually - momentarily freed from the constraints of copyright laws and intellectual property protections, where the plots and dialogue from popular studio movies are free for the taking. And that's seen as a good thing. Is he right? Are certain ideas public property? Or should somebody somewhere be writing The Amanda Show a big fat check?