(2001) dir. Kevin Smith
It wasn’t but a few minutes into this film when I thought to myself, what was I thinking? Why did I rent this?
I also pondered the same questions about the whole film’s production. What were the producers thinking? Why did they make this? It’s a vanity project for a (former?) indie director of questionable ability. In fact, this film is so bad, that I would even suggest that it casts a negative light on everything that he has done so far.
What was I thinking, though? Upon immediate reflection, I reminded myself that I really have hated the titular character, Jay, in all of his previous appearances in all of Kevin Smith’s previous films. What made me think that a film with a ton more of him would be worth sitting through? The fact of the matter is, for me at least, the few scenes that he doesn’t appear in are the easiest to bear of all of this film. I found myself relieved to come to a point in the film when I knew that he wouldn’t appear onscreen. And unfortunately, though Silent Bob, the other titular figure shares equal screen time and billing, he (obviously) doesn’t get much diaglogue or narrative focus.
I knew that the film hadn’t gotten very good reviews. I think I had had more doubts about Smith’s last film, Dogma (1999), though it had received praise. I wound up thinking that it wasn’t great but seemed to be his strongest film; it would still qualify as such. Smith’s films seem to collectively build on one another, with each of his previous films’ characters recurring here, “in” jokes and self-reference but lacking cleverness.
This film really is a discredit to Smith, whose writing is supposed to be his strength. I found all of the characters to speak in nearly the same voice, with the same types of “hip” slang idioms and “colorful” dialogue. One can almost see Smith putting the words into each of the characters’ mouths.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back has the element of reflexivity that seemed as though it might offer some decent material for Smith, who as I mentioned, is touted more for his writing than for his direction. But the “behind the scenes Hollywood” amount to lots of one-off jokes and hackneyed slapstick, rather than anything more incisive. There are a couple moments in which the Smith’s characters collectively look into the camera, directly at the audience, with hammy knowing looks and in an ironically accusatory suggestion that the viewer should know better than paying to see something so stupid.
Perhaps the greatest irony here, is how true that suggestion is.