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Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back   B-

Dimension Films

Year Released: 2001
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Cast: Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Shannen Doherty, Renee Humphrey, Shannon Elizabeth , Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter, Will Ferrell, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Matt Damon, Chris Rock.

Review by Gauti Fridriksson

Kevin Smith's fifth full-length feature, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, is a rambling, bumbling, sprawling, deliriously directionless splat of a film, a heap of pop-culture/New Jersey trilogy references piled so high you can barely see the characters on the screen for it. It's Kevin Smith with a loaded clip of parody, walking around a shooting gallery filled with targets ranging from net-geek flamers to money-grubbing directors. And ladies and gentlemen, that is one big fucking gun he's holding.

If you've seen any of Smith's films, you know our two heroes already: the long-haired, trash-talking Jay and the equally-long-haired-but-significantly-less-talking Silent Bob. Now, some of you are ready to throw up if you ever hear the words "Snootchie bootchies!" again, but then again if that's true you're probably one of those people who hated Mallrats and therefore should stop reading this review right about now, go rent the latest Merchant/Ivory flick and cry yourself to sleep while lamenting the loss of your inner child. Good day.

Now, for those of us still present, here's the basic plot: after having a restraining order placed on them by the Knights of the Quick Stop (Dante and Randall from Clerks) and learning of a Bluntman and Chronic movie in the making, our two chums decide to go on a trek to Hollywood, braving the dangers of Tinseltown (and the open road) in hopes of getting their rightful share of the movie's earnings. Along the way they get in a number of sticky situations (sticky, it should be noted, in every possible sense of the word) involving, among others, a gang of female jewel thieves who look like they've jumped straight from the pages of Maxim magazine, a wonderful orangutan named Suzanne, and a bumbling wildlife marshal who's after the ape. Not long after our intrepid heroes' arrival in Hollywood, there's a big showdown including most of the characters from the film, and this single scene probably packs in as much madcap insanity as the whole running time of Meet the Feebles. That's a lot of insanity right there.

After the roughly two-year wait since the last Smith film, a hearty cry of "Snootchie bootchies" surely can do nothing but lift our spirits, right? Right? Well, yes and no. Doubtful voices have been raised time and time again as to the wisdom of thrusting these two traditionally peripheral characters totally into the limelight. 'Can they make the grade?' people asked. 'Do they have the presence?' 'Is the force strong with them?' The answer, of course, should depend on your personal opinion of them -- if you hate Jay and Silent Bob this movie will take a cheese grater to your nerves, whereas if you love them you'll sit there grinning like a happy idiot for an hour and a half. Right? Well, not precisely. I love the pair, but I wasn't grinning for quite the whole time.

Now, I count myself a big fan of Smith's movies. Even though technically he's not the greatest director ever (a fact which has been harped on ad nauseam by Smith's non-fans, hereafter known as The Pack), his writing consistently brings out delightful characters who sometimes skirt the edges of parody and sometimes dive head-first into it, yet still retain an indelible realness even while engaging in the sort of breathlessly verbose and witty conversations us real people wish we could have, but can't.

Until now, I've not really seen a Kevin Smith film that failed to live up to my expectations. This one -- sorry to say -- kind of did, albeit only slightly. While the in-jokes are fun, and that buzz of recognition you get when you spot a reference and your pop-culture geek bell goes "ding!" is indeed nice in a snickering sort of way, too much of it is punctuated by almost pathologically constant jokes about the main characters' -- and others' -- perceived homosexuality. Now, I'm aware that this is parody, and I'm all for the more offensive forms of parody -- a lot of the time it's the only honest way to get a point across -- but when the filmmakers themselves become fixated on it, then it doesn't play right at all. The first few times, sure, it's all fun and games -- but when you hear the word 'cocksmoker' for the umpteenth time and see someone pumping their hand up and down in front of their o-shaped mouth for the zillionth, the joke wears a little thin. And sometimes there simply are too many jokes per minute -- it kind of seems like they just threw in whatever they could think of and then ran with it.

There are plenty of positives to outweigh those gripes, though. As with any Kevin Smith movie there are some absolutely hilarious moments (such as seeing messrs Damon and Affleck reunited for Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season), and there are some terrific comedic performances (Will Ferrell as the wildlife marshal was particularly funny, as was Seann William Scott in a short stint as a guitar-plucking patsy). The bottom line is this: if you've seen Kevin Smith's films and are familiar with his world and his characters, you will enjoy this film at some level. It's a lot of fun to see all these characters interacting with each other, and there's a tremendous amount of meta-humor involved (actors recurring in different roles, people casting embarrassed glances at the fourth wall, and so on). In a way, Smith is giving his beloved New Jersey characters a gloriously self-referential tribute and, at the same time, blowing them a kiss goodbye. As a fan of his, there's no way not to enjoy that.

And if you're one of The Pack, don't fret -- Charlotte Gray will be in theaters soon. Just keep knitting and be patient.

Review published 10.26.2001.

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