Review by Kim Hollis
August 20, 2001
As a grand finale to the films of Kevin Smith's Askewniverse, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is likely to thrill diehard fans of the director's past work. Packed with more cameos and inside jokes than can be counted or even caught in one viewing, it's a film that moves at a furious pace and provides laughs with every twist and turn.
Without revealing too much, the story finds our heroes stuck as men without a country when Randal (Jeff Anderson, reprising his role from Clerks) gets a restraining order banning them from hanging out in front of the Quick Stop. One thing leads to another, and Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) learn that Bluntman and Chronic, a comic whose characters are based on them, is being made into a movie and somehow, they've received no royalties for the use of their likenesses. Worse, when they visit Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) to try to recover their due, he informs them that not only has he sold off his interest in the comic to former partner Banky Edwards (Jason Lee), but apparently people are also flaming them on an Internet movie chat board. The angry pair decide to head to Hollywood to put a stop to the filming.
From there, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back becomes a road picture of sorts that goes as far as it can in pushing the envelope of crudeness while still maintaining a great deal of cleverness. In fact, the Askew film to which I would most closely compare this new release is Mallrats (and I feel obliged to note that I see that as a compliment rather than a backhanded slap; I love Mallrats). The movie is considerably less "talky" than Smith's previous offerings, and while the nonstop dialogue of the earlier films is something I enjoy, it's a factor that could bode well for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back's chances of achieving mainstream success. However, the honest fact of the matter is that because so many of the jokes require familiarity with Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma, many of the funniest bits will be lost on people who are unacquainted with the Askewniverse.
I don't necessarily believe that's a bad thing, though. Part of the appeal of Kevin Smith's movies is their cultish status. With various characters from all of the previous films making an appearance, the movie feels like the celebration of the end of an era, done for the benefit of both Smith's inner circle and the fans. In fact, the characters break the fourth wall on more than a few occasions to either share the gags with the audience, or to flat-out make the viewers the butt of the joke. While Smith shows no hesitation in maligning Internet geeks, big-studio theatrical productions, famous actors, and a host of others, much of the humor is self-deprecating and shows introspection and wit.
It's clear that both Mewes and Smith are comfortable in the Jay and Silent Bob roles by now. Jay's vulgar motor-mouth runs at full speed, rarely even giving the audience a chance to breathe between giggles. Silent Bob has many outstanding moments throughout the film, and one early scene in particular even resonates strongly for anyone who has followed Smith's continuing development as a director.
The supporting cast is numerous, and many of the individual performances are admirable. Primary amongst these is Shannon Elizabeth (of American Pie fame), who plays Jay's love interest. I had imagined I would detest this aspect of the story, but since the integrity of Jay's character is maintained, I wound up rather enjoying it.
Will Ferrell was the only performer who annoyed me in a hammy, overacted role, but to be fair, he almost always does. Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter and Jennifer Schwalbach Smith were simultaneously vampy and (intentionally) vapid. The remaining cast is made up of any number of folks who have appeared in earlier Askew movies, and to divulge much more than that would spoil the fun for people who have yet to see the film.
And that's what makes Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back so enjoyable. It's fun to be in on the gags, and entertaining to be close enough to the Askewniverse that it's easy to recognize that much of the humor is at your expense. That's the kind of riffing that friends do when they're teasing each other, and with his final film to focus on the Askewniverse, it's pretty clear that Kevin Smith is having a blast with all his friends.