Although it’s the weakest picture in Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is inspired lunacy, essentially a 100-minute party for fans of Smith and his cinematic world. It is also the ultimate measure of Smith’s incredible geekiness, as it’s bursting with homages to everything that the writer-director holds dear: character clichés, genre types, and pretty much every motion picture that Smith has ever seen. Added to this, Smith introduces a large amount of knowing satire, taking shots at two main targets: the internet with its various bloggers and armchair critics (methinks Smith is an IMDb regular), and Hollywood with its moronic sequels and personal and professional friendships. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back lacks the thematic meaning and emotional undercurrents of Smith’s best movies, but it remains goofy, random, often hilarious and infectiously enjoyable.
Booted from their usual hangout spot outside the Quick Stop Convenience Store, Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) learn that a film is being made based on their comic book alter-egos, Bluntman and Chronic. Filming has not yet started, but negative word of mouth is spreading around the web, with internet users threatening to taint the image of Jay and Silent Bob forever. Determined to stop the film from coming to fruition with mere days left until filming begins, the intrepid pair hit the road, looking to travel to Los Angeles to crash the set. On the road, they meet four sexy jewel thieves, one of whom takes a liking to Jay and vica versa.
Plot is usually a secondary concern in Smith’s movies, and this is hugely evident in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, as the storyline is especially thin this time around. The set-up simply involves the titular duo making their way to Hollywood, leading to a series of disconnected vignettes featuring random guest stars. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this per se, but the subplot involving the jewel thieves grows pretty dull. Plus, while Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is funny, it’s not really about anything, as it lacks the depth and honesty provided by Clerks. and Chasing Amy. You’ll laugh, but you won’t get any grand insights or emotion.
Though he has improved a hundredfold since the original Clerks., Smith remains an average director, and his mise-en-scène is pedestrian at best. With that said, though, this is the most visually accomplished Smith movie, and it does look solid. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is at its best when poking fun at the movie industry and the shallow culture surrounding Tinseltown. Smith has enough distance from Hollywood to take some sharp jabs, and he has every reason to do so. After all, Smith has run into many problems with the studio system, from MPAA disputes (Clerks. was unjustly given an NC-17 rating at first) to troubles with distributors who grew too nervous about the controversy surrounding Dogma. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back especially takes off during the trip to Miramax when the titular pair walk onto the sets for both Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season and a new Scream film. The range of cameos is fucking miraculous, too, with Smith clearly calling in every favour humanly possible. All of this madness culminates with one hell of a climax involving some hilariously-staged action.
In their proverbial roles of Jay and Silent Bob, Jason Mewes and Smith are their usual selves; Mewes regurgitates an endless stream of expletives and is as disrespectful as ever, while Smith conveys a lot through mere facial expressions, only talking when he has something of intelligence and substance to say. Mewes and Smith are quite the comedic duo, and they play off each other extremely well. The supporting cast of the picture, meanwhile, is massive. As the female jewel thieves, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter and Jennifer Schwalbach (Smith’s wife) are extremely attractive, serving as the film’s eye candy. The best actors in the film, though, are Will Ferrell as the extremely dumb wildlife marshal, and an unhinged Chris Rock who plays the director of Bluntman and Chronic. There are a range of celeb cameos as well; playing exaggerated versions of themselves, Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Wes Craven and Gus Van Sant all show that they’re good sports. Many others appear, all of whom do a great job.
Anyone unfamiliar with the titular characters, or the View Askewniverse as a whole, should avoid Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, as it’s a film clearly designed for fans of Smith’s past works. And for Smith fans, the film is a lot of fun. Still, it’s not quite perfect; in its best moments it’s a hoot, but in its worst, it’s a hit-and-miss, middle-of-the-road affair. During the press tours for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Kevin Smith made it clear that it was to be the end of the View Askewniverse pictures and the last appearance of Jay and Silent Bob. But 5 years later, Smith delivered Clerks II, which is fortunate since these characters are too rich to ever be permanently put to bed. Smith may fear he will get typecast for these types of movies, but he’s good at them.