Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back



Click here for Adam’s review of the film (8/10)

USA 2001
director/script : Kevin Smith
producers include : Bob & Harvey Weinstein, Scott Mosier
cinematography : Jamie Anderson
editing : Smith, Mosier
music : James L Venable
lead actors : Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Shannon Elizabeth
104 minutes

Unless you’ve seen all of Kevin Smith’s previous films – preferably twice – most of JSBSB will sail merrily over your head. The ‘script’ is a ragged patchwork of Smith-pic in-jokes, Star Wars nods, pop-culture parodies and aggressively puerile gags, thrown around a rickety structure nicked from the Rocky & Bullwinkle movie. This time, the chalk-n-cheese little-n-large buddy duo pratfalling their way across the States are motormouth Jay (Mewes) and silent Silent Bob (Smith), the feckless New Jersey dope-dealers who had cameo roles in Clerks (JL rating : 7/10) and Chasing Amy (4), and meatier parts in Smith’s ambitious ensemble-pieces Mallrats (8) and Dogma (6).

Back in Amy, J+SB became the inspiration for Bluntman and Chronic, mock-superheroes created by comic-book artists Holden (Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee). Strike Back kicks off when Jay and Bob discover that Miramax, inspired by the success of X-Men, are planning a big-budget version of ‘their’ exploits. The hard-up are miffed by the fact they’re receiving no cash from the studio – but their real outrage is sparked when they read insults directed at them on movie-scoop websites: “Jay and Silent Bob are clown shoes”, among more descriptive put-downs. The knuckleheaded pair decide that the only way to stop the e-slander is to stop the movie: Hollywood, here they come.

Once the clowns actually reach LA, JSBSB clicks into place – but, like our heroes, it takes forever to get there. The whole film is extremely hit-and-miss, but the New Jersey opening and road-movie mid-section are very much more miss than hit – the very first gag consists of a baby saying “fuck” over and over. Smith either won’t or can’t direct actors: he even contrives to induce the first truly bad performance of Seann William Scott’s career (his presence is an unwelcome reminder of the much breezier, funnier Dude, Where’s My Car?). Smith’s deficiencies mean each bit of humour relies on the comic skills of the individual performer concerned: Will Ferrell brings the picture to a halt every time he pops up as a hapless Fed pursuing J+SB; it takes Chris Rock to kick it back into action with his hysterical turn as the ‘uppity’ black director of the Bluntman + Chronic movie.

Another plus comes when Jay and Bob stumble onto the set of a hyper-violent Good Will Hunting sequel – we see Affleck and Damon preparing for their roles (“lion face – grrrr! lemon face – aaahhh!”) while Gus Van Sant counts his fee behind the camera. Soon after, they disturb Wes Craven on the set of another Scream movie – J+SB having had a walk-on cameo in Scream 3, of course. But how many viewers will know what Van Sant and Craven look like? And how many will have seen the Miramax flop Phantoms, the butt of not one but two jokes? The ‘Smith salutes his own back catalogue’ aspect of the film, however, is fair enough, if this really is the last of his ‘Jersey chronicles’, and, if nothing else, it’s a pleasure to see Clerk Jeff Anderson back on screen as the acerbic Randal. Less appealing is the way JSBSB hardly ever stops critiquing itself – in particular, the ancient gimmick of having the characters make some clever, self-deprecating remark then turn to camera wears thin after the third or fourth outing. Smith just never knows when to stop – it’s amusing enough to have Mark Hamill playing the supervillain in the B+C movie – we don’t need a freeze-frame and a caption saying “Look, kids, it’s Mark Hamill (applause).”

This is, of course, part of the ‘fun’ – it’s a deliberately ‘bad movie’ about the making of a ‘bad movie’ – and some of it (a cheesy Planet of the Apes piss-take that arrives out of nowhere) does come off. But too much falls flat on its face, making the occasional air of smugness all the harder to take, especially the nauseatingly self-satisfied final shot. Because Smith, for all his scriptwriting flair, has never been able to direct for toffee – his handling of extras is still at the level of Victoria Wood’s mock-soap Acorn Antiques, and his guiding principle remains ‘never use two shots when six will do’. There is one mysteriously competent action scene, however, featuring slinky jewel-thieves silently somersaulting their way through a laser-protected bank vault, complete with bullseye payoff when the last (Ali Larter) ruins everything with a riproaring fart.

23rd November, 2001
(seen Nov-22-01, Warner Village Newcastle)

by Neil Young
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