Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back Review
By Joe Lozito
Return of the Druggie
Jason Mewes, the actor who has played foul mouthed pot dealer Jay in all of writer-director Kevin Smith's films, owes Mr. Smith a tremendous debt of gratitude. Not only has Mr. Smith single-handedly kept Mr. Mewes working since his debut in the 1994 indie gem "Clerks" but in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" - the proposed finale of the director's five-film New Jersey "trilogy" - Mr. Mewes is given the starring role and a love interest in the form of Shannon Elizabeth (American Pie). It's pretty safe to say the Mr. Mewes would not be spending much time in front of the camera were it not for Mr. Smith's films, however he brings a certain earnest idiocy to the role of the profane sex-obsessed homophobe which nearly sustains the film. In the past, Jay has nearly been hateful in his previous bilious tantrum-filled cameos, so in "Strike Back" Mr. Smith softens Jay a bit and gives him a conscience populated by an angel and two devils.
The film actually bears an unlikely resemblance to Tom Stoppard's masterful "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" in the way it takes two incidental characters and makes them the center of their own story. What there is of a plot revolves around Jay and his "hetro life partner" Silent Bob (Mr. Smith) taking a road trip from their convenience store parking lot in New Jersey (from "Clerks") to Hollywood to stop a film from being made based on comic book characters based on their lives (from "Chasing Amy"). Along the way the characters (and the pacing of the film) stumble upon a Charlie's Angels-esque group of animal rights activists (including Mr. Smith's real life wife Jennifer Schwalbach) and an orangutan. Like the "Blues Brothers", by the end of the film everyone is chasing our two hapless heroes to the finish.
The film feels like a download of Mr. Smith's brain. He throws everything he can into it. From the title itself - a take off on one of the most popular sequels in history - it is clear that Mr. Smith is not shy about his references. Like "The Simpsons" or "Star Trek", the film rewards viewers who have kept up with its lore - in this case, the Kevin Smith Askewniverse. At the same time, of course, the film is so chockfull of pop culture that it threatens to alienate some viewers.
Like "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" and "Blazing Saddles", the film has a lot of fun with movie back lots and, from the numerous fourth-wall-breaking glances at the camera, it's clear that no one is taking the film very seriously. The film is a veritable who's-who of celebrity cameos - too many to mention here. Uniformly, the entire cast is having a ball and everyone, it seems, gets the joke. Ben Affleck reprises his "Chasing Amy" role in addition to appearing as himself. He and Matt Damon have a great scene in which they berate each other's career missteps. Ms. Elizabeth is possibly the best sport in the film. Given the unenviable task of believably falling in love with Jay, Ms. Elizabeth smiles and perks her way through the film and nearly makes it work.
The real thrill in the film comes in seeing Mr. Smith himself in a lightsaber duel with Mark Hamill and dancing on stage with Morris Day and The Time is almost heartwarming. You can imagine the smile on this face as he wrote those scenes. This is the work of a man who is doing what he loves and hasn't forgotten how he got there. Mr. Smith said this film would be a "valentine" to his fans. For the ones who understand where Mr. Smith came from, he delivers.