JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT
Directed by Kevin Smith
There’s a formula to reviewing a modern Kevin Smith joint. You start by waffling about how much he meant to you growing up, saying you wouldn’t have gotten into writing about films were it not for his forum. Then reflect on how good his old ones were, before saying its with regret that you’re reporting his one, whether it’s the True North double-bill or that cartoon, is disappointing. Finally, you finish by saying it’s maybe not that he’s changed, but you have – that like Dante and Randal in Clerk 2, you just grew up. Snoochie boochies etc.
I was half-writing this review in my head when I clicked play, and the awkwardly unfunny opening scene (shown in the none-too inspiring trailer below) did little to curb my growing smugness. Yet once it got going, this call-back heavy comeback ended up being surprisingly good – even if it relies way more on fond memories of now decades-old flicks rather than doing much new. Not that this is necessarily a problem, given it’s clearly intended to be a love letter to his fans along with his family. And besides, in an age when everything from Star Wars to Halloween has been returned to its roots, why not Jay and Silent Bob too?
What little plot there is revolves around our titular heroes once again going on a road trip to Hollywood to interfere with a movie. This time around it’s a new comic-book movie being made of the old comic-book movie those two were the basis for: Bluntman and Chronic. So it’s reboot time which, as they get told in a very self-referential scene with a returning Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee), means people take an old movie and change just enough to make you pay for the same shit all over again. Oh, and this incarnation of B&C is directed by none other than Kevin “fucking” Smith. So the dynamic duo set out to stop him making “another shitty movie about Jay and Silent Bob” by interrupting a shoot he’s doing at his groan-inducingly named festival Chronic-com. Along the way, they hang out at Mooby’s, beat up a paedophile, stumble upon a clan rally fronted by wrestling legend Chris Jericho. Oh, and they learn Jay also fathered a daughter, Millennium Falcon, played by Smith’s real-life kid Harley Quinn Smith.
When the first footage dropped I figured it was going to be sad to see our now aged heroes growing old disgracefully. There’s certainly a bit of that, with the makeup team not even trying to disguise how rough Mewes looks nowadays. However, it’s all presented with such a knowing wink, and warmth for the View Askew universe, that it’s hard to take it too seriously. This isn’t about them coming to terms with mortality and the youth they’ve lost as much as celebrating what they have: each other, new friends and a whole load of grass. Smith movies tend to occupy one of two styles. We’ve got the sentimental slacker coming of age flicks, such as Clerks, Chasing Amy and sort of Dogma. Then there are the live Loony-Toons on weed stylings of Mallrats and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Reboot falls nicely into the latter camp, with every character being ridiculous and every situation mined for its juvenile potential. There’s still some heart behind the cock and balls though, with Jay and his estranged daughter’s relationship getting played with sincerity. It even borders on touching when the disjointed narrative builds to a sweet denouement, which skilfully ties its themes of old glories and family together. So we see some satisfying arcs.
Not that the schmaltz gets in the way of the humour. For the most part, it’s as unapologetically crude as anything Smith’s done, filled with his signature array of dick and fart jokes. It lands for the most part, with a great gag per minute ratio – even if the more slapstick elements towards the end flop (a Glengarry Glen Ross riff is as unfunny as it is unexpected). Recurring jokes about Silent Bob communicating via emoticons, and how strong their joints are, quickly cease to be funny too. Then there’s a deeply uncomfortable strand of ironic racism, as stuck in the 90s as the characters. I suppose the logic is if it ain’t woke, don’t fix it. The supporting cast is short-changed too, with Millennium and her friends reduced to jokes about age and wanting to fuck Thor. Speaking of which, Chris Hemsworth is one of many cameos smattered throughout. Given its budget was relatively scant, Smith has put together a hell of a rogue’s gallery, which maybe says something about the esteem his friends hold him in. Some are very impressive, even if they can’t trump those of its predecessor, and all are pleasingly self-deprecating. None so much as Kevin Smith, who saves a lot of the most barbed put-downs for himself – whether it’s the failure of Jersey Girl and Cop Out or the time he was too fat to fly Southwest Airlines. Still, whilst it’s great to see a guy laugh at himself, by the third act the supposed modesty becomes indulgent, given the film is essentially him and his creations in a circle-jerk (an image I think he’d dig).
Nonetheless, he’s got every reason to feel pleased with himself – because, despite the many things wrong with it, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot works pretty darn well. It isn’t easy to make something so silly so watchable: Mewes’ own directorial debut Madness in the Method sure as heck wasn’t, despite the same knack for in-jokes and low brow larks. But then this is an imperfect filmmaker who knows his strengths. More than that, it’s an imperfect filmmaker who is totally at ease with himself for being one and wants to share this with us. I know a lot of people who used to dig him will consider this an inelegant, self-congratulatory, lazy regression – which maybe it is to an extent. Or they’ll want him to hurry the hell up with Moose Jaws, or the dozen other projects he’s gone back on. But for those of us who never wanted to stop hanging out in front of the Quick Stop, it’s a welcome reunion. Snoogins.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is available on VOD.