Through films like “Clerks” and “Mallrats,” Kevin Smith has created a universe that moviegoers love to watch, though most wouldn’t want to live there. In his dimension, even the dumbest people speak in fluid, well-punctuated sentences. Everyone watches movies a lot, and everyone swears all the time. It’s a world obsessed with minutiae like in “Seinfeld,” but with the eloquent language of a Coen brothers film (filtered through a profanity-generating machine).
Two of the supporting flavors in Kevin Smith’s pop-cultural stew, the vulgar, dope-peddling Jay (Jason Mewes) and his aptly named buddy Silent Bob (Kevin Smith himself), are the center of attention in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” a parody of modern filmmaking that is itself a compelling example of it — a movie that has room to dish out criticism, because it can withstand the same when it’s flung back.
Jay and Bob learn that the comic book characters based on them, Bluntman and Chronic, are about to be made into a feature film — and they’re not getting any money from it. So they set off for Hollywood to stop the production.
On the way, they get tangled up with a band of vixens (Eliza Dushku, Shannon Elizabeth, Ali Larter) who convince them to break into an animal-testing lab while they (the vixens) pull a jewel heist nearby. Now Jay and Bob are fugitives, pursued by the doggedly dumb Marshall Wilenholly (Will Ferrell). (If you get the joke in the name “Marshall Wilenholly” — it’s from “Land of the Lost” — you’re the right audience for the film.)
The film is one giddy set piece after another, full of cameos from celebrities who clearly just love Kevin Smith movies and wanted to be in one. A partial list: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Shannen Doherty, Wes Craven, Gus Van Sant, James Van Der Beek, Jason Biggs, Chris Rock, George Carlin, Seann William Scott and Jon Stewart.
The jokes are surprisingly on-target and fresh, with few misfires. It’s outrageously vulgar — thanks mostly to Jay, who is not just tactless, he’s downright offensive. Offensive as a person, that is. As a movie character you don’t have to worry about meeting in real life, he’s hysterical. There is no underlying sweetness with him. He really just IS a bad-mouthed moron. (A key insight into Jay’s character is given when someone mentions the Internet, and he belligerently says, “What the **** is the Internet?” This is a man who is ignorant of how ignorant he is.)
The film is self-indulgent. Smith loves “Star Wars,” so he HAD to have a light-saber duel. He has friends in Hollywood, so he HAD to make fun of them. The reason the self-indulgence is OK is that we like Kevin Smith. He’s the cool, popular kid in school who doesn’t fit with any of the cliques but is accepted by all of them. I hope he hangs around with us for a long time.
A- (; )
In 2011, I reconsidered this movie for my "Re-Views" column at Film.com.