I love Kevin Smith. I was late to the game, seeing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back on Comedy Central after midnight, not understanding why Ben Affleck and Jason Lee where two different characters. I was uninitiated the the View Askewniverse, getting a better taste the night of my birthday party in 2006, where at the last minute we decided to see Clerks II instead of the initially planned Lady in the Water (I’m sure we made the right choice). From there I was hungry for more, going to Mallrats to Clerks and the entirety of his films at the time. When I ran out freshman year in college, I watched an Evening With Kevin Smith and was just obsessed with the man as his creations, him being very much the opposite of Silent Bob.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back became my favorite of all, with the new context of the rest of his universe, a movie the man himself has described as a live-action cartoon.
Even better, Kevin Smith became my best friend post-college, having listened to Smodcast since day one in college, as I lived alone in LA and always had one of his ever expanding podcast empire in my earholes as I walked lonely through the city.
But after Zack and Miri Make A Porno, Smith changed. After a deep depression that even featured a large hiatus on Smodcast, he reemerged a stoner, who, between his podcasts and other projects, churned out more content that ever, with his rule he could only smoke if he was working, meaning his creative work started every morning at 4:20am. I’ve fallen a bit off the Kevin Smith train the past 2 years especially, disliking all his films since Zack and Miri, and growing weary of podcast overload, sticking only to Fatman Beyond and more recently his excellent interviews to sell Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.
So, I sat in a theater Tuesday night, in a packed house of people wearing #37 hockey kerseys, next to my equally-skeptical roommate. We both love the man, but have seen the likes of Yoga Hosers and watched even his podcasts decrease in quality. Yet, we were unable to pass up a chance to see a return to the View Askewniverse, a sequel to my favorite stoner film, and yes, for the record, we were quite stoned.
Verdict: Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is an uneven, mixed bag. At one moment, it’s a parody of itself in the worst possible way with every scene as meta as the one in Strikes Back where Holden (Ben Aflfeck) breaks the fourth wall, another it feels like Smith in his prime, and at times… like Yoga Hosers.
Reboot is taken quite literally here, though I’d call it a remake, based upon the definition between the two delivered in Brody exposition to our titular stoners, as seen in the trailer. Yes, scenes like this are in the trailer and expected to feel like repeats — that’s the joke — but it wears thin fast as you realize you’re not just getting scenes you seen before, you’re getting the same catch phrases and noises you not only saw in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but also the films that film borrowed the characters from. It makes you feel good in a nostalgic way, no one has changed aside from their physical appearance, not even their clothes, but it’s just too much. The movie relies almost entirely on this and the stories Smith has told for the last few years, feeling all too familiar and self-referential not only to his work, but Kevin Smith himself, who, as seen in the trailer, is directing the Bluntman V Chronic reboot.
I buried this lede, as Smith would say, and if you made it this far you likely know the premise, but the film revolves around Jay and his hetero life partner, Silent Bob, traveling back from the Quick Stop in Leonardo, New Jersey, to Hollywood, California, to stop the reboot of the film they failed to stop last time. There are new twists and turns like Jay finding out he has a daughter, who blackmails the pair to join them on their journey, with Jay unable to tell his daughter who he really is. The new twist is, well, until Kevin Smith seems to forget it, is Saban (the producer of the films and Saban’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers) attains the names Jay and Silent Bob through a courtcase involving the genius Justin Long returning as his character from Zack and Miri, leaving the pair with no identities.
What works best are the new comedic scenes and some unexpected cameos from outside Smith’s earlier work. There are quite a few, including Chris Hemsworth who we see in the trailer who is a holographic guide to Chronic Con, the film’s final destination. The other highlight is Ben Affleck’s last minute return as Holden from Chasing Amy, who has one of only two emotional scenes that register even slightly, hilariously making Batman jokes, seemingly the first time the actor has had fun with his misfortune with Zack Snyder ruining the DCEU (fight me, fanboy!). There are a few other great original scenes too, but the rest is so nostalgic and meta it is complete overkill.
Though Smith promised in an intro to the film as a Fathom Event, free-styling with Jason Mewes, who has become a great ad-libber, emotional moments that will make you weep, these scenes are even more contrived than the repeats of repeats of repeats. What really works for some fans but didn’t work for me is that there is a lot of Kevin Smith as Kevin Smith in this film, and it grows old fast, as again we’re getting stories we’ve heard him tell time and time again. He’s not even a parody of himself, he’s just Kevin Smith adlibbing. Which is great, but I get that for free at home. I wanted to see more Silent Bob, less Kevin Smith.
Some of you will love this film. Others of you will leave like me and my roommate, very doubtful Clerks III can be any better than Yoga Hosers. Most of the audience loved it, we mostly had our greatest fears realized, though the great scenes few and far between didn’t make it a total waste of time. I’m shocked to see more positive reviews as this felt like a nearly complete disaster leaving the theater, but know I’ll watch it again (at least to get a Kevin Smith commentary aka podcast), and maybe I can get past being not tickled by nostalgia, but beaten like a dead horse by it.
Final Grade: C-
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