Jay and Silent Bob Strike BackReviewed By Alexander Chancey
Posted 08/23/01 23:24:47
Reminiscent of the late Douglas Adams' 5-volume Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy," director Kevin Smith initially planned to make only three films about the trials and tribulations of New Jersey suburbanites. The popularity of his first three films (Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy) changed that. Jay and Silent Bob -the dope-dealing, two-man gang that serve as the predominant common thread among all five of Smith's films- have, in a sense, become a sign of the times. Their popularity is similar to that of Sean Penn's Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High: caricatures of modern youth that most people, scarily enough, can relate to on some level. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the fifth film in Smith's "View Askewniverse" series -named after his production company- is, regrettably, the final one to feature his crude but lovable twosome. And do they ever go out with a bang!When we last left our heroes, Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), they had just helped save the universe from destruction in Dogma. Now that existence is safe once again, they can go back to their day jobs: selling pot in front of the Quick Stop convenience store. But all is not well for our not-so-dynamic duo. After Clerks clerks Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) get a court order to ban them from the Quick Stop, Jay and Silent Bob find out that they are taking heat on the internet for the film adaptation of "Bluntman and Chronic," the comic based on them. In order to set everything right, they head off on an adventure to Hollywood in an attempt to stop the movie from being made.
One of the major differences between Kevin Smith movies and the average teen comedy fare of recent years is the quality of his scripts. Everybody thinks in his films, even if it's about something as insignificant as the likelihood of Superman and Lois Lane consummating their relationship. He is an excellent observer of his generation: a generation that has nothing to fight for other than possession of the remote control, a generation that takes up arms against any dissenters of their opinions. The plot for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is rather convoluted, but delightfully so. "Dick and fart jokes," as Smith himself has described them, are abound but the usual musings on pop culture add a potent punch that separates them from the willy-nilly toilet humor of such movies as Dude, Where's My Car? and Freddy Got Fingered. Also, in conglomerating characters from his previous four films, Smith gives us an ending not just to the story of Jay and Silent Bob but offers postscripts for his other characters that his fans will love (the audience I saw this with applauded at every recurring character's first appearance).
The cast is among the best ever assembled for a comedy, giving that of Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles a run for its money. Mewes has a screen presence that is unfair to the rest of the cast; even when he's not talking, you can't help but divert your attention toward him to see what he might do next. Smith, as Jay's taciturn "hetero life mate," isn't quite Charlie Chaplin but he doesn't need to be. Fashioning his performance as much after Wile E. Coyote as Oddjob from Goldfinger, he is perfectly happy to let Mewes rule the screen until the moment when he speaks (which is the best of all five films). Saturday Night Live's current savior, Will Ferrell, is funny as Wildlife Marshal Willenholly, but since he should have been out-and-out hysterical, his performance is a very slight disappointment. Shannon Elizabeth, best known from the American Pie movies, does a fine job as Jay's jewel thief-love interest Justice. Since she doesn't have to do as broad comedy as she did in Scary Movie or use an Eastern European accent, we can see that, up until now, she's just been in the wrong movies. Rounding out the cast are Smith regulars Jason Lee, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon; the last two playing themselves in what can only be described as the best self-parody ever put on film.
There are as many guest appearances in this movie as there are in anything Robert Altman has done. Dogma alumni George Carlin and Chris Rock (a.k.a. the two funniest men alive) both have cameos as, respectively, a hitchhiking bum and the Spike Lee-esque director of the "Bluntman and Chronic" movie. And stay until after the credits for the final cameo in the film; I defy any Kevin Smith fan to not feel a lump in their throats after seeing it.With a drama about fatherhood up next, Smith plans to reach a larger audience. So when the end credits of J&SBSB say, "Jay and Silent Bob have left the building," it's the truth. Fortunately for us, they leave enough laughs to last us five more movies.
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