Rated R, because it's Kevin Smith doing a Jay and Bob movie. It's got all the language. That language is often used to describe sexual acts. There's nudity and it's just overloaded with drug use. This is for the folks who don't know Jay and Silent Bob. These guys ruled supreme in the '90s, so maybe there's a generation that completely missed the boat with these characters. It's raunchy to the extreme, so keep that in mind. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: Kevin Smith
I didn't write yesterday because of the June 2 social media blackout. So I said, "I'll get up early and write two." Then I stayed up late last night and jumped between playing Telltale's Batman: The Enemy Within and scrolling through the atrocities happening in the world right now. So I got up later than I planned and then realized that I don't feel like writing about Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. It's not exactly against Kevin Smith and his films. I actually totally admire the guy for doing what he likes to do. It's just that this might not be the movie to channel some of the outrage and sleepiness I have brewing right now. Also, I looked at the list of movies I watched last week and there's not much to look forward to. These trends happen and I probably need to kick myself in the butt for the next round of movies. Sorry, Mr. Smith, but Jay and Silent Bob Reboot probably won't get the attention it deserves.
As Kevin Smith's View-Askewniverse keeps rolling along, its audience may be getting more and more specific and catered to. Like many college students, there was a time in my life that I absolutely adored the works of Kevin Smith. For me, there were three films that I would watch on repeat: Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy. Dogma was out, but it didn't do anything for me except notice that he was trying too hard to upset Catholics. I think it was Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back that allowed me to retire with these characters amicably. It was almost a swan song to a fandom. There wasn't anything wrong with it. In fact, I have very fond memories of going to that movie and I remember guffawing. But Smith put the lid on these characters and it was what I needed to discover other films. This is a time in my life where I was watching the same movies over and over again, pre-video rental days. (The irony is that it involved becoming an ACTUAL clerk in a video store to kill my relationship with Jay and Silent Bob.) Part of me was aware that I was a poser. I'm still almost completely straight edge. I've never done a drug and I have no desire to do drugs. I never slept around or think of people in the philosophy of Jay and Bob. But because Jay and Silent Bob were so opposite from my personality, I suppose there is something rebellious about hanging out with these two stoners.
In that time, my tastes have really changed. I watched Clerks II and got little out of it. (I think I bought a used copy for some reason. I might actually own this movie despite everything that I just wrote.) I rented Red State and Cop Out. I then realized, "Kevin Smith's movies may not be for me." Smith himself is pretty self-flagellating. He comments that he's not a very good director. I'm not necessarily in that camp. He's actually moved out of his comfort zone long ago. But I realized that I like Kevin Smith: The Personality more than Kevin Smith: The Filmmaker. Now, I would completely lose respect for the guy if he ever stops making movies. It's his love of what he likes that is contagious. But I also realize that he's a guy who is making movies for his fans...and only his fans. Nothing really says that more than Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. One of the thing about Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is that it is a love letter to the die hard fans. It is self-referential and super-insular, riding on its own hype for a lot of the movie. It is what it is because it was meant to be the retirement of Jay and Silent Bob. Kevin Smith was going to go on and do other things and these characters were saying goodbye. It stops the movie from becoming great, but it fulfills its goal of closing the door on the universe that Smith has created. But Smith has made two other films in this series since then and he's doing the same tricks. That means we're getting a lot of the same stuff, rehashed. (No pun intended.)
But that's in the title. The movie is a giant commentary on how Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is practically the exact same film as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. He's aware of it. So it all comes down to this question: Is the joke of making the same movie twice something that's worth watching? The answer all comes down to the audience. While I got off the Jay and Bob boat a while ago, I know that there are fans that aggressively will like anything that Kevin Smith puts out. I mean, I'm pretty sure a lot of this movie involved crowd-funding, so building a movie around that audience actually makes a ton of sense. It's just that I really wanted this movie to make me fall in love with Jay and Silent Bob again. Part of that comes from evolving the character. Remember how I love Kevin Smith the Personality. This movie is really an attempt to merge the two. As part of that, it is way to inside baseball. The movie really pokes fun at Kevin Smith's post-Jay and Bob career, which is cute for a little bit. But the movie really just packs too many clowns and references inside the clown car. Every single thing that Kevin Smith has ever made makes an appearance. It's really an altar for everything that he's made in the past. The movie really feels a lot like "Hey, remember this? What about this?"
On a personal level, that has to be cathartic to Smith. I know that Smith and Ben Affleck had a falling apart post Strike Back and seeing them work together is actually pretty great. But Smith used to be a guy who was really known for his writing. He was someone who was able to really write some amazing stories. His run on Daredevil was one of my favorite books. The same holds true for his Green Arrow stories. He's an amazing writer, but he tends to really lean hard into what his fanbase really finds entertaining. Part of it is that he finds it entertaining as well. These are inside jokes that his crew riff about and he kind of just puts it on screen. For me, now an outsider, I only get some chuckles out of it. There isn't anymore raucous guffaws. It's really like being at a party where everyone is laughing, but I just mildly chuckle. I get the joke, but I don't have the emotional resonance for where that story originated. He's a talented guy and I kind of want to see him challenge himself a little bit more.
So can I look at the movie distanced from my knowledge of Jay and Silent Bob? Probably not. But if I did, I like the idea of Jay looking into what it means to be a father. These stories are about aging. Kevin Smith, for as much repetition this movie involves, is a very different dude than he was in his hay-day. The same probably holds true for the majority of the people involved in this film. Using the loudmouthed Jay as his avatar, Smith is able to comment on the value of parenthood and how perhaps using a non-traditional parenting model to do so. I love that he loves his kid. I don't know why it is important if people I don't know have great relationships with their families, but it brings me joy. Sorry for being so human. I can't possibly know the arguments that those two get into in reality, but it seems like Harley Quinn Smith genuinely loves and gets her dad. The best thing to take out of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is that, despite the fact that it still completely worships the works of Kevin Smith, it is also a celebration of Smith's greatest creation, a daughter that seems to love him. Putting Harley Quinn Smith at the center of this film is its real triumph. I know that the movie is just full of the kids of the creators. When the movie distances itself from the silliness that the movie has adopted, it actually has some pretty great moments. While I don't really love it as much as I used to, Chasing Amy is probably considered an objectively great movie. It's hard to really claim it as a Jay and Bob movie, but they are in it. Chasing Amy works because it is a vulnerable film.
Follow my logic here. Kevin Smith has something really vulnerable to say about being a dad. He has made a vulnerable film before, so why not do it now? These great insights into parenthood might actually work a lot better in a quiet film rather than something that really reads exactly like the previous to Jay and Silent Bob films. Again, I don't want to be that guy, but the movies that I dug back in the day were very different films from one another. Clerks and Mallrats feel like two different directors took the same characters and put their own spins on then. Chasing Amy is drastically different than anything else in the series. Maybe it is because he was learning. But a story about Jay meeting his adult child really might have a lot of legs given a more somber Chasing Amy vibe. Instead, we get these really absurd storytelling moments where nothing really matters all that much. There's a few moments that get touching, but they are instantly covered up by catchphrases and drug jokes. It's a bummer because I'm not against more Jay and Bob movies. I'm against easy Jay and Bob movies. I would love him to put his heart out there and brave wide audiences instead of appealing to people who already like him. Because that number has to be dwindling down as tastes change.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.