by Greg Muskewitz
The phalanxes in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back are united under a better direction, a better cause. The idea to have them mostly as cameos is a benefit as well, because at that point the viewer is not assigned the responsibility to put all of the faces that show up (sometimes twice) into their permanent, long-term memories.A couple of years ago, I remember reading that Chasing Amy, Kevin Smith’s third feature (falling behind Clerks and Mallrats in chronology, but lands ahead in quality, originality and talent out all of his features) was the final installment in what was called the New Jersey Trilogy. And I thought that Dogma was supposed to be his exodus into other ventures, although that didn’t mean he would have to ditch his trademarked duo. But, without complaints, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back has been called his final piece in the homage to New Jersey, though I wouldn’t mind the slipshod appearances of the characters here in there in the future. The movie at hand is mostly impervious to criticism, unlike Smith’s other works, but this displays the playfulness that backfired in Mallrats along with the talent that has mostly consumed his other efforts—meaning there will be a confluence of those that have appeared regularly since 1994’s Clerks. The brickwork that is craggily laid here has the mischievous duo discovering that their comic book equivalents—Blunt Man and Chronic—is being turned into a movie by Miramax (“Doesn’t Miramax only make classy pictures like The Piano and The Crying Game?”/ “Ever since they made She’s All That, everything went downhill”) without their prior knowledge and without any compensation on the horizon. Taking negative attacks on the movie to heart, they set out to halt the production in Hollywood, and kick anyone’s butt who has bedaubed the dyad online. One question that popped into my head during a certain sequence was, does Miramax even have a studio lot to film on like Universal or Paramount? And anyway—or maybe this is just the building where business deals are made—but isn’t Miramax the sole major studio to be located in New York? Even if those queries turn out to be not in the movie’s favor, that’s hardly a detractor to the inflammatory, but contumaciously satisfying comedy. For one thing, possibly the most superficial, the cameos surely serve to enhance the odd nature of who might turn up when. They are well-chosen, effectively played off of, used well for the comedic circumstances and simply frolicsome. Ben Affleck plays the cartoonist character from Chasing Amy bashing on his image saying that, “they’ll probably get Ben Affleck and Matt Damon”—both of whom turn up in cameos as themselves later (Affleck, now with bleached icicles in his hair) filming Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season. Needless to say, the range of cameos and small roles stretch across the gamut from original Good Will Huntingdirector Gus van Sant, to Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamil, George Carlin (already a Smithian culprit after introducing Buddy Jesus in Dogma), Shannon Elizabeth (far more a participant in this than in American Pie 2), AP 2 co-star Seann William Scott, Ali Larter, Eliza Dushku (now the official spokesperson for anything leather), etc. One of the best sequences has James van der Beek (Dawson’s Creek) and Jason Biggs (the American Pie movies) cast as Jay and Silent Bob, to which the haphazard duo runs into and is mistaken for the actors’ stunt doubles. (The best part comes when Biggs is recognized and laments about his infamous signature—“I’m the pie-fucker!”) Really only Chris Rock’s racist director bit is tired, unnecessary and unfunny. The second he opens his mouth, you almost regret not having taken a bathroom break right there and then. Of all the cameos, the one that surprised me the most was Joey Lauren Adams’; not that her acceptance of the spot was a surprise, but that Smith offered (he reported a couple years ago how following the movie, she spurned him and left for someone else). If you fear that through all this, the actual movie may have become adumbrated, it is the movie and only serves to broaden or expand the scatological game of humor. Because otherwise, it has no bounds, and the wider, the better. Following the resulting parodying-disappointment of Scary Movie 2, Jay and Silent Bob quickly scoop up the crown, with the end result being that both movies share a couple of the same subject matters in their parodies (done better here, though) and Smith also remains ahead of the game, squeezing in a sequence that flames Planet of the Apes a mere month after it opened. (Though, admittedly, the gag is done blindly.) Long before I heard the vexation from GLAAD, it was clear enough to me that the sexism and offensiveness in the movie is negated and flattened by the stupidity and idiocracy of the male characters (in particular Jay). For as much as the movie in general opens its mouth—just to anthropomorphize it—it’s blasted with a battering-ram of a log; it deflates the hullabaloo it causes by being as half-witted and absurd as it is. Smith, perpetually wrapping himself up in controversy (unneeded here and in Dogma) seems to be an easy target to the complaints, but from what I’ve read, he’s handled it appropriately. While Smith showed his biggest maturity in Amy, this is definitely not a career advancement, but it is a summer comedy that plays around the standard and has fun in doing so. And the line around it—who plans to see it and who plans not to poke it with a 10-foot pole—seem clearly defined anyway, so there shouldn’t be any upsets or consternations by what there is, unless like me, you found yourself laughing more than expected.
"The question is, who wasn't in this?"
With, well, let me try again. Without Arnold Schwarzengger, Denzel Washington, Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, Sharon Stone, Cate Blanchett, Helen Hunt, Angela Bassett, and a few others. Oh, and Jason Mewes starred as the blackguard Jay, and in addition to Smith’s writing and directing duties, is Silent Bob.Final Verdict: B+.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4714&reviewer=172
originally posted: 09/17/01 13:23:15