‘Jay and Silent Bob’ in Hollywood
Kevin Smith’s “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” is not the kind of film that one would imagine growing out of his third feature, the scintillating 1997 romantic comedy “Chasing Amy,” which starred Ben Affleck and Jason Lee as partners in the creation of a cult-hit comic book, “Bluntman and Chronic.” The comic is about a pair of slackers based on Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), who hang around a convenience store, site of Smith’s first feature, “Clerks” (1994)--and who have turned up in all of Smith’s features. Sadly, much of the charm and wit of “Chasing Amy” is missing here.
Smith takes us back to the Quick Stop in New Jersey, where Jay, tall and long-haired, and Silent Bob, short, bearded and rotund, are alarmed to discover that the comic book they inspired is about to be filmed in Hollywood. They are even more upset about the prospect of being made to look ridiculous on the big screen than they are about being cheated out of their profits (by Lee’s Banky, who has bought out Affleck’s Holden).
There’s nothing to be done but for the stoner duo to hit the road to Hollywood and stop production. Their journey is a constant zany adventure, most notably when they’re given a ride by Shannon Elizabeth’s sultry Justice, who explains that she and her pals (Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter and Jennifer Schwalbach) are Denver-bound animal rights activists.
After a protracted journey, they arrive in the Glamour Capital of the World for more adventures and a torrent of self-conscious insider film industry jokes. Indeed, “Jay and Silent Bob” elicits the queasy feeling of a film spoofing filmmakers who have “gone Hollywood” while going Hollywood itself.
Along the way, there are lots of hilarious, off-the-wall incidents, and the film has a likable freewheeling spirit to go with its knockabout plot. But the film isn’t as remotely funny as it means to be because of Jay’s incessantly crude sensibility, his inability to utter a single sentence without the four-letter word most favored by young men. The relentless torrent of foul language--and not just from Jay--becomes numbing and finally makes the film seem more crass than amusing.
It’s not just that Jay is profane, but that he’s incapable of being anything else, coming off as too dumb to be redeemed by a purported underlying sweetness that is supposed to make him so irresistible to Justice. It defies comprehension, even in a comedy fantasy, that Justice would give Jay the time of day, though to her credit, Elizabeth has an easy nonchalance that invites us to accept almost anything that her character does.
Practically everybody who ever appeared in Smith’s previous movies turns up, plus many notables, some of them giving the picture a lift with their cameos. Showing up late in the film is Chris Rock as the director of the movie-within-the-movie, and he’s hilarious as the Angry Young Black Man who, having succeeded, is exacting revenge for his grievances. Rock is ever the inspired high-risk comedian, and his presence earlier in the film would have been most welcome.
It must be admitted that “Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back” is likely to connect with a wider audience than “Chasing Amy,” even if its primary appeal would seem to be to limited to teenage males. Yet surely for many of his admirers, Smith can’t get back to making movies of the caliber and originality of “Chasing Amy” fast enough.
MPAA rating: R, for nonstop crude and sexual humor, pervasive strong language and drug content. Times guidelines: The strong language and the crude sexual humor could scarcely be more incessant.
‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back’
Jason Mewes: Jay
Kevin Smith: Silent Bob
Shannon Elizabeth: Justice
Chris Rock: Chaka
A Dimension Films presentation of a View Askew production. Writer-director Kevin Smith. Producer Scott Mosier. Executive producers Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Jonathan Gordon. Cinematographer Jamie Gordon. Editors Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier. Music James L. Venable. Costumes Isis Mussenden. Production designer Robert “Ratface” Holtzman. Visual effects supervisor Joseph Grossberg. Art director Elise Viola. Graphics consultant R. Scott Purcell. Set designers Peter Davidson, Gregory Van Horn. Set decorators Jeffrey MacIntyre, Doug Mowat. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes.
In general release.