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Dustin's Review
Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
2 Stars

Directed by Kevin Smith
Cast: Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Shannon Elizabeth, Jason Lee, Will Ferrell, Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek, Seann William Scott, Jamie Kennedy, George Carlin, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Jane Silva, Marc Blucas, Matthew James, Carmen Llywellyn, Shannen Doherty, Wes Craven, Joey Lauren Adams, Tracey Morgan, Scott Mosier, Renee Humphrey, Dwight Ewell, Jules Asner, Steve Kmetko, Ever Carradine, Brian O'Halloran, Jon Stewart, Morris Day.
2001 – 100 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for crude humor, sexual situations, violence, and extreme profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 18, 2001.

Billed as writer-director Kevin Smith's last foree into the View Askew universe, as well as the final appearance of pothead slackers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), two characters made famous in 1994's "Clerks" and carried over into 1995's "Mallrats," 1997's "Chasing Amy," and 1999's "Dogma," "Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back" is a purposefully juvenile, sometimes clever spoof of Hollywood. For anyone unfamiliar with these two titular characters, the film should be avoided at all costs, as it is clearly made solely for fans of Smith's past works. And for Kevin Smith buffs, it makes for a fitting finale to View Askew. Still, the movie is so conventional (save for some very knowing in-jokes and unusually coarse language) that it ends up being just as cliched as the Hollywood filmmaking system it sends up.

When we meet "hetero partners for life" Jay and Silent Bob, they are doing what they do best--hanging outside the quickie mart in their New Jersey hometown. Things don't remain peaceful for long when they discover that a "Bluntman and Cronic" feature film, based on the comic book about them, is about to start filming in Hollywood. With negative word on the Internet spreading fast about the impending movie, Jay and Silent Bob hit the road to L.A. with only three days left before shooting begins and, thus, tainting their true identities forever. They are soon picked up by four sexy women: bad girls Sissy (Eliza Dushku), Chrissy (Ali Larter), and Missy (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), and odd nice girl out Justice (Shannon Elizabeth), who takes a liking to Jay. Posing as animal rights activists, they are secretly jewel thieves out to frame Jay and Silent Bob for their crime, much to the protest of Justice.

"Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back" is a straightforward comedy, and as such, it isn't very funny. The amount of times I outwardly laughed could be counted on the fingers of one hand, and although there are a few witty jabs at actors (several of which play themselves) and their movies, they don't really add up to much. In fact, the majority of the humor found in "Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back" seems tired and/or uninspired, particularly a take-off on the twist ending of the original "Planet of the Apes" and the bike-flying-across-the-moon shot in 1982's "E.T.-The Extra-Terrestrial." There is a difference in making a sharp, perfectly balanced satire, and simply being excessive in how much you can fit into a plainly silly 100-minute movie.

At the very least, the huge cast seems to be having a ball, sinking their teeth with relish into their parts. As Jay and Silent Bob, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith are their usual selves, with Jay being as horny and disrespectful as ever, and Silent Bob turning out to have quite a bit of intelligence hiding behind his nearly always mute exterior.

The actors surrounding them are like a who's-who of young and old Hollywood. Given the most substantial role (and the most screen time) is Shannon Elizabeth (2001's "American Pie 2"), as charming as she's ever been. Playing Justice, the unlikely love interest of Jay, Elizabeth--not always the best actor--is surprisingly natural and free-spirited here, a delightful companion in Jay and Silent Bob's quest. As the three beautiful, but nasty, confidantes of Justice, Eliza Dushku (2000's "Bring It On"), Ali Larter (2001's "American Outlaws"), and Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (Kevin Smith's real-life wife) add fine support. Will Ferrell (TV's "Saturday Night Live") is definitely the funniest thing about the picture, as the extremely dumb cop after the dynamic duo, and Chris Rock (2001's "Down to Earth") hams it up with sassy aplomb as the disgruntled black director of "Bluntman and Chronic," who is against anything of the Caucasian persuasion. Proving that they are both good sports, Jason Biggs (2001's "American Pie 2") and James Van Der Beek (TV's "Dawson's Creek") take a career beating as they play exaggerated versions of themselves. "Star Wars" alums Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher also show up in one-scene cameos, as do Joey Lauren Adams (of "Chasing Amy" fame), Seann William Scott (yet another cast member of the "American Pie" series), Shannen Doherty ("Mallrats"), Wes Craven (director of the "Scream" trilogy), and Matt Damon ("Dogma"). Finally, Ben Affleck has a smallish, but memorable turn, playing both himself and his Holden character from "Chasing Amy."

The film takes generous potshots at Internet movie critics, as well as the upcoming "Scooby Doo" feature. Every scene, it seems, makes fun of something or someone, but it's usually all in good fun. Nevertheless, "Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back" could have been much better. The screenplay by Kevin Smith is not nearly as tightly written as is the norm for him, and Smith generally seems to have taken about five steps back from what he has proven he is capable of. While it is obvious that the film is meant to be a love letter to Smith's supporters, it still doesn't take away the fact that it barely makes for a passable time-waster. With the passing of View Askew and the cult characters of Jay and Silent Bob, there is a conflicted feeling of both sadness and relief. Kevin Smith is a better filmmaker now than when he made his debut with "Clerks," and it is about time for him to prove this once again.

©2001 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman