starring Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Jason Lee, Chris Rock
written and directed by Kevin Smith
by Walter Chaw Self-referential and self-satisfied, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a continual stream of grotesque sexual references, leering at scantily clad, foul-mouthed women, and enough broad swipes at mainstream cinema (while featuring a parade of celebrity cameos) that it ends up being a cross between "Beavis and Butthead", Cecil B. Demented, and a Bob Hope Christmas special, not to mention an endurance test. It is, in other words, exactly the kind of film that Jay and Silent Bob would make if they were real and given fifteen million dollars to hock their adventures in arrested development to fawning fans, as well as the other 99% of the world.
Stoner slackers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) have appeared in each of Kevin Smith's films (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma) to lend a kind of id/superego dialogue when the Jersey hyphenate is stuck for an appropriate epiphany. While his movies up to now have been indicated by a seemingly genuine desire to tackle thorny issues and loaded topics (parts of Dogma represent the most intelligent mainstream debate of religious faith, perhaps ever), Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a narcissistic implosion of smarmy pop-cultural Madonna/whoredom that seems to serve no purpose but to aggrandize the questionable popularity of its titular protagonists. It is a tribute to a paper totem, and though it's every bit as dialogue intensive as Smith's other films, it lacks any pretence of relevance or intelligence that make his self-indulgent rambling occasionally bearable. It is a Cannonball Run film for the new millennium, a post-modern satirical farce that, like so many stunning pronouncements from artists who are not quite as smart as they believe, becomes the very thing it wishes to satirize.
Sent off on a cross-country odyssey by the news that comic book characters based upon their likenesses and personalities have been sold by Chasing Amy's Banky (Jason Lee) to Miramax (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is, of course, a Miramax film, rendering all of the "scandalous" Miramax commentary masturbatory corporate pimping), Jay and Silent Bob discover the secret of hitching a ride (fellatio and cunnilingus, generally), get picked up by the Scooby-Doo gang, kidnap a baby orangutan, fetishistically dress up Princess Leia as a nun (and Luke Skywalker as something called "Cock-knocker"), and fall in with a quartet of cat-suited cat burglars (Eliza Dushku, Shannon Elizabeth, Ali Larter, and Jennifer Schwalbach Smith) who spend their screen time walking in slow motion and fighting with each other. In the largest of innumerable ironies, the duo is incensed that their underground credibility is being ruined by the production of a big-budget picture and seek to, if not stop the production of the film-within-a-film (to star James Van Der Beek and Jason Biggs), get a piece of the financial pie.
Along the way, there are tons of references to such films as The Fugitive, Planet of the Apes, Entrapment, E.T., and, of course, all of Smith's previous work, the next parodic vignette almost entirely unrelated to the last. Admittedly, discussing the plot of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is akin to discussing the plot of a family picnic home movie--which is what this film is. Smith has invited his friends (and wife and toddler) to do a self-consciously stupid movie, elevating his already obscene dedication to nepotism to new levels of shamelessness. The film has a few belly laughs, most of them stemming from gay jokes, penis gags, and a fixation on the clitoris, but there are far too many lulls and awkward silences (Chris Rock's tired shtick is increasingly like an earwig in the brain) for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back to be anything more than a USO propaganda film meant to entertain Smith's disenfranchised army of angst-ridden soldiers.
The only reason for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is to provide a love letter for Kevin Smith's fans and a starring vehicle for a pair of Greek chorus bit characters who, since Clerks, have been little more than desperate script contrivances. A passing knowledge of all of Smith's films is absolutely required for a complete enjoyment of the piece, and the most accessible moments at the end concerning a confused homage/send-up of Star Wars are interminable and forcefully dull. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is not without the stray comedic gem (most of them coming in the first hour), but self-love is ultimately an ugly thing, especially when it takes 90 minutes and 15 million dollars to express. Originally published: August 24, 2001.
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