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Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 08/11/01 11:44:53

"View Askew looks at itself in the mirror and goes mad."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Kevin Smith has wrapped up his Jersey "trilogy", now a fivelogy, with a hilarious new comedy that weaves together the cultural phenomenon of his films with the life of the characters in the films. Every moment is a reference to some part of the world Askew, the collective world of View Askew productions and its fan community with its base in the View Askew web board. (www.viewaskew.com). Smith loves to take care of his fans and this movie, it seems, was made as much for them as it was for the View Askew clan.

Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back is an ongoing parody of the world created by Smith as well as a tribute to it. Smith is talking to the fans that have kept pace with the Askew circus through this film. Just as he opens up the world of his films to his fans through his website, he opens up this movie to the larger Askew-munity with cameos of board posters and by tearing down the fourth wall to directly address the audience, many of whom are undoubtedly board aficionados.

Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) must go to Hollywood to stop the filming of Bluntman (Jay) and Chronic (Silent Bob) so people will stop badmouthing them on the Internet. Along the way, they run into a gang of Charlie's Angels gone wrong, one of which is played by Smith's wife, Jennifer Schwalbach. After stealing a chimp from a reasearch facility for the girl gang, they must go on the run from an Animal Control officer played by Will Ferrel. There is even the required romantic sub-plot but like the romantic sub-plot in PeeWee's Big Adventure, this is just another vehicle for laughs and less a typical vicarious plot element for the audience.

This film took a beating from GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in a complaint published by Entertainment Weekly, claiming the film was 90 minute long gay joke. (For the skinny on GLAAD's beef, go to www.glaad.org/org/publications/documents/index.html?record=2815) While the film does make a lot of jokes that may be homophobic, the film brings up the issues and then addresses them later on so you are left more with a catechism in tolerance. Perhaps the whole GLAAD controversy was promotional genius as a way to get the gay audience in to see a film that does more for tolerance of homosexuality than any mainstream comedy I've seen. Smith skillfully uses the language of his audience to subvert their assumptions and inject a new social consciousness, maturing them, as well as the Jay and Silent Bob characters, a bit in the process.

There is no way any gay person could walk out of this film feeling as if we've all just been fag-bashed. If anything GLAAD should be giving Smith an award. Attitudes towards women and African-Americans are also addressed. If you want to get the girl, you have to stop thinking of them as "bitches" with "big titties". Jay's stock in trade tastelessness is permanently diffused by one of the Charlie's Angels gone bad, played by Shannon Elizabeth.

I've seen Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma and I will have to say that Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back is his most sophisticated effort to date. He has turned the best of his material, what is happening in the world because of Jay and Silent Bob, into a clever comedy.

While Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith reprise their roles, Ben Affleck plays both Holden from Chasing Amy and a caricature of himself. Affleck does great vaudevillian type comedy. He brings in the worst performances in his blockbuster roles but in films like 200 cigarettes, Good Will Hunting and some scenes in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, he is more like the interesting guy you want to know, rather than a shallow romantic lead. Affleck and Damon do a funny parody of Good Will Hunting in a scene where Affleck and Damon are filming Good Will Hunting 2. In between takes, they tease each other about the roles they've played in their films.

Chris Rock plays an angry director named "Chaka" who's hatred for whites is vented on everyone he talks to. This is a great, no-holds barred role for Rock that takes his early SNL Black Power skits to a more dangerous level. Chaka is stuck directing Bluntman and Chronic. He hates the movie and he hates everyone he is working with. The poor production assistant takes the brunt of Chaka's anger. I like this hard-edged Rock.

Mark Hammil and Carrie Fisher continue the Stars Wars homage. Carrie Fisher plays a nun who picks up Jay and Silent Bob while they are hitchhiking. The nun talks about living by the book and Jay thinks she means the book of the road, the one where you trade blow jobs for rides. Mark Hammil is a villain in the Bluntman and Chronic film where he re-enacts a famous scene from The Empire Strikes Back. Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson return as the original Quickstop clerks.

Smith is clearly doing all the things he ever wanted to do in a movie now that he can. It's so clearly made for fans of Jay and Silent Bob movies as well as for fans of pop culture in general. It's a fitting farewell but one wonders, what happens next?

Next to Hal Hartley, Smith is the only other director who I consider myself a fan of as much for his personal style as the films themselves. He has kept an indie aesthetic of gritty real world tension, while involving now big name stars in farcical fantasies. The art-house hipster is happy, the comic book geek is happy and most importantly, the bank is happy. Try getting all those people to talk at a cocktail party.

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