The Richard Curtis of the Profane
Absolutely delighted to say that this review was featured on the excellent Live for Films site. Check them out!
Having been a huge fan of Kevin Smith since 1997’s Chasing Amy, it was frustrating having to wait until the streaming release of Jay and Silent Bob: Reboot. I’m happy to say, that wait was worth it.
If you’re not familiar with the unfiltered New Jersey filmmaker, podcaster, raconteur and (usually stoned) social media personality, then Chasing Amy is probably a good place to start. This is a director who wears his heart on the sleeves of the hockey jerseys he always used to wear, and Amy was in-part a response to the criticism of his second film, Mallrats. Amy was more heartfelt, more character-driven and more emotionally engaging, while still proudly featuring the hilarious and crude comedy of his earlier films. Some questioned the gender and sexual politics in the plotting, but Smith, whose brother is gay, delivered something genuinely emotionally affecting and rewarding, as well as commercially and critically successful. He embraces the Amy controversy in the new film, recognising that the story should have been told from “…any perspective other than a cis white man’s”.
Recent output has been less successful. His last film, 2016’s Yoga Hosers, holds a 23% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and while 2014’s Tusk is more successful with 45%, it’s plot, which feels like The Human Centipede played for, er, gags, was a lot funnier in the original podcast it came from.
But Smith is no stranger to adversity. His grit and determination was what made him successful in the first place, filming his first film Clerks (1994) at night in the store where he worked, surviving on a single hour of sleep for each of the twenty-one nights it took to shoot, and arguably starting or at least, rebooting, the American indie film scene in the process.
Films like Mallrats and Chasing Amy take place in the same ‘universe’ as Clerks, long before the MCU came along. They reflect Smith’s love of pop-culture and particularly, comics. Jay and Silent Bob are like the C3PO and R2D2 of this universe, albeit almost permanently stoned and a lot fouler mouthed. In 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, they went to Hollywood in a pique over the Bluntman and Chronic movie of characters based on them. As the title implies, Jay and Silent Bob: Reboot sees it happen again, complete with a hilariously acerbic definition of what a reboot and a remake are and what their prevalence is doing to the film industry.
I’ve watched this twice now, once for enjoyment and once for review, bringing in someone less familiar with both Smith and the pop-culture he parodies here. I wanted to test a theory; this film is so soaked in in-jokes, references and call-backs, I wasn’t sure how universal the appeal could be. It recalls some of the early-90s parody movies like Loaded Weapon, in both gag-rate as well as references. The fact is that unless you’re completely up to speed with Smith’s multi-media shenanigans, you’re going to miss some of this stuff. As I said, I’m a huge fan, I’ve been to live recordings of his podcasts, saw most of the films as soon as they were released and until lately, I’ve kept up with most of his podcasts. Even so, some of this went past me. If you’re new to the View Askewniverse, this is not the place to start. That said, the riffs on pop-culture and jokes about Hollywood hit home as often as DCEU movies suck. If you enjoy that kind of thing, if you watch a lot of Honest Trailers on YouTube say, then you’ll certainly find something here to enjoy.
The rumoured budget is $10 million. If so, then with a reported cumulative worldwide gross of $3,514,118, it’s heading for a substantial loss, though no doubt Smith will be ploughing in takings from his various related roadshow events as well. Frankly, it does look like a movie with a limited budget. He’s taken the mickey out of himself in the past for unadventurous camera angles and even things like the crane shot in Clerks II seem wildly out of scope here; dynamic it is not.
Still, the guy’s not Kubrick and you’re here for the lolz and the feelz, of which there are plenty of both. It’s crude and rude in the extreme and some of the jokes are questionable, but the heart shines through like an irresistible smile on the face of your friend. Despite the bluster, the smoking and the swearing, Kevin Smith is self-evidently a sweet, sensitive guy and that runs through most of his films in abundance. This is a movie about fatherhood. It’s not going to show you anything radically new, but it would be a hard, callous person indeed who didn’t find some emotional resonance here.
The acting throughout is fine. There’s the usual mix in a Smith film of A-list professional actors and amateurs or people for whom acting isn’t their main job. Credit to Jason Mewes, who must do a lot of heavy lifting over the normal comedy stoner material. Most of all though, Harley Quinn Smith is a mini revelation. Kev, man, your kid can really act! Somebody put her in a proper movie, quick!
Maybe it’s because I reviewed Yesterday recently, but it’s hard to escape the comparisons with Richard Curtis. You know what you’ll get from both filmmakers – hilarity and sentiment in abundance. So, if you can imagine an eighteen rated Four Weddings and a Funeral where Hugh Grant spends most of the film off his tits on strong weed, talking about and acting out sex in explicit detail, with cameos from some very big stars who happily rip the piss out of their own image and jump into the bath of crudity head-first, then you’re not far wrong.
If you’ve never seen a Smith film, don’t start with this one, but if you like him, you’ll get here eventually. For those of us who are already converts, let’s hope this does lead to Clerks III and Twilight of the Mallrats.