Jay and Silent Bob
review by Joe Barlow, 31 August
and Silent Bob are a joke that gets a little less funny with each
subsequent retelling, so it's probably a good thing that Kevin
Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the fifth film to
feature the popular stoners, has been christened their final outing.
Smith, who created the characters in his 1993 breakout indie
movie, Clerks (and also plays the part of Silent Bob), has
proven himself willing and able to tackle more thoughtful subject
matter than dick and fart jokes, as evidenced by offerings like Chasing
Amy and Dogma. This movie, then, plays like a loving farewell to the rabid
fans who got the director where he is today, with virtually every
major character from Smith's previous work popping up here for a
swan song appearance. But
all things must pass, and it makes sense for Smith to retire the
characters now -- the duo appear to have wandered so far afield of
their indie roots that a more appropriate moniker for the flick
might be Jay and Silent Bob Sell Out.
story is simple enough: having been banned from the Qwik-Stop
convenience store (the setting of Clerks), our intrepid
heroes visit their friend Brodie (Jason Lee), the main character
from Smith's Mallrats, who now owns a comic book store.
Brodie informs the duo that Miramax is about to make a movie
based on Bluntman and Chronic, two comic superheroes who are in turn
loosely based on Jay and Silent Bob.
But after learning that (a) Miramax doesn't intend to give
them any money and (b) the Internet community can't stop bitching
about the forthcoming project, our heroes decide to head to
California to halt production of the film.
Along the way they'll smoke a lot of pot, learn unorthodox
new methods of hitchhiking, get involved with a gang of professional
jewel thieves, liberate an orangutan from a medical research
facilities, and, in one of the movie's most hilarious moments, crash
the set of the fictitious Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season,
starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
(Be sure to look for Gus Van Sant, the director of the
film-within-a-film, who plays himself, hysterically, as a greedy
"road movie" has long been a staple of the comedy genre,
and Smith uses it to good effect here.
Familiar faces from Smith's other "New Jersey"
films pop-up, including the titular slackers from Clerks, the
comic-book artists of Chasing Amy, Shannon Doherty from Mallrats
(who reveals her dramatic range here by playing a bitchy actress),
and far too many others to list.
The jokes fly fast and furious, with some real gut-busters in
attendance, especially the opening scene, which reveals the origin
of the friendship between our title characters.
for every joke that succeeds, there's another -- and possibly two --
that don't. Chris Rock,
for instance, turns in a much-too-lengthy appearance as a racist
movie director that didn't prompt a single laugh from me.
And while it's always great to see Mark Hamill in a movie,
his appearance as a character called Cock Knocker (I'm not making
this up) also seemed to last far longer than it should have; indeed,
the movie's reliance on cameos for much of its humor wore quite thin
on me. How about
employing humor by being funny, rather than trying to make us laugh
because we recognize the actors on the screen?
(I'll excuse Wes Craven, director of the Scream trilogy,
for brilliantly parodying himself.
His turn as the uncaring director of the latest Scream
sequel prompts one character to quip, "Gee, Wes, you're not
even trying any more, are you?")
and Silent Bob Strike Back,
as funny as it (sometimes) is, nonetheless feels like a step
backwards in Smith’s evolution as a filmmaker -- as if, having
just made the thought-provoking and universally praised Dogma,
he anticipated a critical backlash and tried to deflect it by
deliberately making a film that pokes fun at itself.
This is literally a critic-proof movie -- it spends far too
much time kidding itself (and indeed, the whole entertainment
industry in general) for any such criticism to work.
In terms of tone, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back feels
more like, say, a hypothetical sequel to Mallrats than the
next logical step in Smith's career evolution.
And since Mallrats is Smith's most polarizing work --
fans either adore or despise it -- this revelation should tell you
everything you need to know.
I'll also mention that the flick contains the only fart joke
that has ever, to my knowledge, made me laugh; however, it also
features a bunch of others that did nothing but irritate me.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is, at times, a funny movie.
But it's not a great one, basking as it does in needless
celebrity cameos, a number of pointless explosions, and enough gay
and fart jokes to (ahem) choke a chicken.
There's some unintentional irony here -- it stinks of
hypocrisy that Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which seems
determined to flaunt its indie heritage and personally make friends
with each and every member of the audience, nonetheless boasts a
multi-gazillion dollar advertising campaign and a soundtrack album
featuring the likes of Bon Jovi and Marcy Playground.
the retiring of these characters, Smith stands at a crossroads in
his career -- will he jettison the immature aspects of his earlier
work to embrace a more thoughtful style?
Only time will tell. Rumor
has it that Smith has been tapped to write and direct a new Fletch
film as his next project, possibly to star Ben Affleck as a younger
incarnation of the title role.
While this news is unconfirmed as of this writing, it seems
an ideal way for Smith to sever ties with his earlier work, while
continuing to embrace the comedy and verbal wit for which he is
known and admired.
James Van Der Beek
R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult