Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back


(USA 2001)
Rated R for nonstop crude and sexual humor, pervasive strong language, and drug content

Starring:
Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Jason Lee, Chris Rock, Shannon Elizabeth and the Immediate World

Director: Kevin Smith

Writing credits: Kevin Smith

Miramax

I have a confession to make: While I like to fancy myself a fairly decent film critic, I've never claimed to be a "film buff." Kurosawa puts me to sleep, I've never seen UN CHIEN ANDELOU or BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, and with some exceptions, films with subtitles tend to bore me. This last character flaw of mine is largely a result of being chained in a movie theatre with the rest of a college psychology class in 1976, forced to sit through the Longest Foreign Film With the Fewest English Subtitles In The History of Film, Ingmar Bergman's SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE.

That said, this does not mean I am a hopeless shill for Hollywood dreck. One reason you've seen so little from Your Humble Critic this year (aside from the need to do numerous home repairs and recover from three family deaths, two household job changes, and the endless nightmare that is the George W. Bush Administration), is that the sludge that Tinseltown has dished out this year has been just simply not worth my time. However, I do have a confession to make: sometimes I like to watch a really silly, sophomoric stoner-boy comedy.

This does not mean I have a video collection consisting of every Cheech and Chong movie plus both of the Bill and Ted movies. What it does mean is that sometimes you just want to laugh, and idiotic boy-men who know they're idiots and don't try to convince you that they're anything more than the losers they are can sometimes be refreshing. Unlike those who constitute the George W. Bush Administration.

So that said, I have another confession to make:

I was prepared to like JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK before even walking into the theatre.

There are three kinds of people: those who like the work of Kevin Smith, those who don't, and those who categorize people into groups. I have to confess, I am one of the former. I even liked MALLRATS. I thought DOGMA was one of the most profoundly spiritual movies ever made, to the point that it was #3 on my Ten Best list for 1999. Perhaps it's a Jersey thing, perhaps its just the aging fangirl in me that can't resist an oeuvre the entire existence of which is predicated on in-jokes. Smith is not so much a filmmaker as a master marketer, who has created his View Askew-niverse as a home for trash culture mutants who thrive on the concept of winking and nudging and being hipper-than-thou. Smith even has developed drinking games to be played while watching his films, which can be found in the View Askew Web site.

The characters of Jay and Silent Bob, the good-natured stoner losers that were introduced in CLERKS, and have become more prominent as the Smith oeuvre has progressed, have gradually taken on lives of their own. In fact, they even they managed to walk away with DOGMA under their arms like skateboards, leaving even such comic luminaries as George Carlin and Chris Rock in the dust. Jay and Silent Bob are hardly original creations. Jay is yet another clone of the stoner savant created by Sean Penn in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, and in Silent Bob's trademark raised eyebrow, Smith ought to pay royalties to the estate of John Belushi. The silent straight man who has one pithy, profundity-for-idiots speech in the entire movie, has now even been ripped off from Smith (see Vinnie Jones in GONE IN SIXTY SECONDS). Still, these characters are so good-naturedly idiotic, and Smith and real-life buddy/stoner Jason Mewes have such impeccable comic timing, that it's easy to forget how much I would have hated these guys if I'd actually known them when I was twenty.

Half of the fun of the View Askew-niverse is watching it reference itself, and this phenomenon reaches its zenith in JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKES BACK, with the levels of reality viewed askew stacked one on top of each other like pancakes at an IHOP.

Are you ready? Here goes:

Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), whose escapades were the inspiration for the "Bluntman and Chronic" comic books introduced in CHASING AMY, learn from Brodie (Jason Lee) from MALLRATS that the movie rights for the comic book have been sold, and the movie is not only already underway, but being heavily discussed on the Internet, with fanboys everywhere insisting on a Web site called www.moviepoopshoot.com (which really exists, even if it is obviously a parody of aint-it-cool-news.com; note that all messageboard postings are directed to the View Askew board) that Jay and Silent Bob are a good side gag, but not enough to carry a film on their own. Evicted by CLERKS Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) from their customary post in front of the Quick Stop convenience store, and appropriately indignant at both turns of events, they decide to go to Hollywood and stop the film from being made.

What transpires is a fairly conventional teen road movie, with lots of dick, fart, and blowjob jokes; and a thin and somewhat dull side plot involving a quartet of rubber-clad, bodacious female jewel thieves (Shannon Elizabeth, Jennifer Schwalbach, Ali Larter, and Eliza Dushku); an orangutan, and a clueless wildlife marshal (Will Ferrell). As dick, fart, and blowjob jokes go, Smith writes fairly amusing ones, though a certain sequence involving wordplay on a certain part of female anatomy was a bit much for me, though the males in the audience found it hilarious. And when the film strays too far out of the View Askew-niverse and into this more conventional teen flick, it falls apart into downright mediocrity, perhaps another statement about the film industry.

But Smith doesn't stop there, for he also skewers his own studio (Miramax), overly-successful directors who have gotten fat and lazy (Gus Van Sant counting money on the set of GOOD WILL HUNTING: HUNTING SEASON, Wes Craven desultorily directing yet another SCREAM flick, this one starring an orangutan) and actors who decry the crap they appear in, only to embrace it when convenient (Jason Biggs of AMERICAN PIE attempting to avoid arrest by screaming, "But I'm the pie fucker!!"), and even Web movie geeks like Your Humble Critic.

But at its core, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, Smith's farewell to the characters who made him famous, is really just a big party for all of his buddies and those of us who are mere sojourners in his universe, complete with musical entertainment by killer funk band Morris Day and the Time. And they're all here. In addition to the aforementioned Dante, Randal, and Brodie, Holden (Ben Affleck), Banky (Jason Lee), Hooper X (Dwight Ewell), who was right about Banky all along, and Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) from CHASING AMY are also in attendance. Representing DOGMA, but portraying different characters this time around are Chris Rock as director Chaka Luther King in the most racially paranoid character since Eddie Murphy's Kit Ramsey in BOWFINGER; and George Carlin in a bit part in which he reveals the secret of the Book of Hitchhiking -- something to do with helping Holofernes get his head off. Affleck, who demonstrates here that Smith is the only director who can coax anything approximating a performance out of him, appears again with doppelganger Matt Damon in yet another Kevin Smith send-up of their own mega-fame, shooting an action-flick sequel to GOOD WILL HUNTING. Matt Damon (who needs to do more of this sort of fun work), riffs on Affleck's recent film festival o'mediocrity, calling him "BOUNCE Boy" and citing FORCES OF NATURE and REINDEER GAMES); while Affleck dishes it right back at him, riffing on "homosexuals who ride horses and play golf". Another Fun Hint: Watch for other cameos featuring actors from movies that figure prominently in Jay's diner rant in DOGMA.

If Smith is the creator of the View Askew-niverse, and therefore its deity, then Silent Bob, as portrayed by Kevin Smith, is his avatar -- the essence of a deity manifested in a coarser material form, in this case, a fat stoner in a backwards baseball cap. Silent Bob as Jesus. Now put THAT image into your bong and smoke it, folks; for he's the ultimate "Buddy Christ."

But I digress. Silent Bob is Harpo Marx as rendered by John Belushi's Blutto from NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE (another film to which Smith pays tribute -- watch for it), and part of the ongoing gag of the character is the one inevitable speech he gives in every one of Smith's View Askew films. As Jay, a kind of moronic Groucho to Smith's Harpo, Jason Mewes shows a harder-edged version of the kind of idiotic, sweet innocence that redeems the best of the stonerboy pantheon (Keanu Reeves in the Bill and Ted movies and the granddaddy of all stonerboys, Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli), setting them apart from the more malevolent Beavis and Buttheads of this genre. With his anachronistically long, flowing locks and bland, almost chipmunky sort of good looks, Jay's feeble rapping and tough sex-talk reveal him to be the utterly clueless virgin that we know he is. The problem is, after five movies, I have the distinct sense that Jay and Jason are utterly indistinguishable, and I wonder how real-life Smith buddy Mewes is going to earn the cash for his "doobie snacks" now that the Almighty Hand O'The Great God Kevin has decided to smite his universe to eternity once and for all. Perhaps Smith allowing Jay to finally get not just the girl, but "that Russian chick from AMERICAN PIE" (Shannon Elizabeth) is the consolation prize.

If you're a fan of dick, fart, and blowjob jokes in general, JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK is as good a way to spend an afternoon as, say, seeing AMERICAN PIE 2 for the twenty-seventh time. Otherwise, the degree to which you'll enjoy this gleefully silly film is a function of how familiar you are with the World According to Kevin Smith. Smith is an interesting and literate, if amateurish, director, and it's worth the prep time of catching his other work before taking in this one.

But then, I have to say nice things about JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, because if I don't, Jay and Silent Bob might show up at my house and kick my ass.

- Jill Cozzi


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Review text copyright © 2001 Gabriel Shanks and Cozzi fan Tutti. All rights reserved. Reproduction of text in whole or in part in any form or in any medium without express written permission of Cozzi fan Tutti or the author is prohibited.


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