Directed By Kevin Smith
Starring – Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck
The Plot – Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) return to Hollywood to stop a reboot of ‘Bluntman and Chronic’ movie from getting made.
Rated R for pervasive strong crude sexual content, adult language throughout, drug use and some nudity
– Collective cast. There are no shortage of celebrity cameos within the film, in fact, Smith calls on all of his friends and show business acquaintances to collectively assemble the Avengers of all Kevin Smith movie universes, and it offers us a reflective trip down memory road with a continuance of many favorite character arcs. In terms of meaningful performances, it is great once more to see Smith and Mewes don their familiar threads and immerse themselves in the world’s favorite stoner duo since Cheech and Chong blazed onto the scene many decades ago. Mewes in particular is called upon to explore surprisingly deep character directions than we are used to from him, and his growth and evolving maturity for the character’s responsibility proves that Jason is every bit the heart for the film’s capabilities. However, it’s Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith who stole the show for me, echoing the angst and longing of a teenager seamlessly, all the while bringing a sharpness for comedic timing that proved “Yoga Hosers” horrors were purely in the script.
– Production value. This is a surprise for me, as the lack of big budget studio influence to the picture allows this crew of professionals to make every cent count, and detail is the name of the game for this picture. Not only are the set designs precise in conjuring up the air of nostalgia through the many scene locations that many of us grew up with in this universe, but the filmmaking itself balances an integral look in its cinematography, all the while preserving patience in the film’s editing design. It outlines the first Fathom Events screening that has maintained that level of cinematic luster that I expect from seeing a movie on the big screen, and proves that Smith’s stripped down approach to returning to the stories and characters who made him famous was the first concrete decision that he has made in over a decade.
– Witty dialogue. Sure, there are the cringe moments when it comes to stoner puns that are so far on-the-nose that they might as well be snorting, but the majority of the personality associated with the banter cherishes a consistency to speed and detail so fast that you will definitely require second watches to catch every clever instance. Some deal with actors poking fun at their own trivial filmographies, some are refreshing call-backs to humiliating instances that have since defined certain characters, and some are Smith himself attacking the very same media that have been the source of some of this vicious mud-slinging. This all feels therapeutic for Kevin, and done so in a way that flows smoothly between human interaction, and not obvious in regards to cool cinematic edginess where every line packs a punch.
– Cinematic commentary. The biggest gain that audiences will receive from Smith’s commentary is the way that he takes time to breakdown the meandering from studios, whose only intention is to cash in on people’s nostalgia, and vividly distinguish the difference between the terms “Sequel”, “Reboot”, and “Remake”. Oddly enough, this film is guilty of being all three, but it does so in a way that uses the mirror of reflection to be able spot the tropes for future examination, and coming from someone who is sick of Hollywood unoriginality, I appreciate a movie that uses ridiculousness to capture a complete lack of studio imagination. Will it change cinema for better? Probably not, but it’s daring when a director can challenge what is conventionalism during the 21st century, and weave it in a way that practices what they preach, giving us a spotlight of satirical clarity that could certainly go a long way in the next sequel, reboot, or remake that you see.
– Dramatic depth. Part of what makes movies like “Clerks” or “Chasing Amy” staples of 90’s cinema is the way they present a comedy, then insert meaningful life experiences to further flesh out the importance of the characters and their stories, and this reboot is a fine return to form for Smith in this regard. Towards the end of the second act, we start to see an epiphany for Jay in particular, and it’s one that forces him to confront his ways of life that have kept him from someone so important all of this time. We the audience know the truth from the get-go, but it’s this road trip that allows Jay the maturity needed to confront these demons, and finally take something of permanence and consistency for his own otherwise incoherent life. While nothing made me tear up or strain my breathing, I can say that Smith’s finger as a director is firmly on the pulse of emotional resonance, and it’s an aspect of the film that many of his fans will take comfort in, for the way the director trusts his instincts for his own experiences as a family man.
– Comic value. This is kind of half and half for me. The problems come with typical sequelitis amongst comedies, in that they repeat the very same jokes from previous chapter installments. Where I can overlook that here is the fact that this is an intentional reboot, so therefore that repetition is less harmful when you consider from a logical standpoint the previous film isn’t supposed to exist to us the audience. Beyond this, there’s a fine combination of physical and intellectual humor that doesn’t require coherence for the minority in the audience who aren’t stoners, offering a comfortable medium that brings the two sides together wonderfully. There are some jokes that don’t land, or even result horribly, but with a landing power of around 60%, it proves that Smith as a screenwriter still has a lot of gas in the tank, and more importantly it provides hope for the green-lit “Clerks 3” and “Mallrats 2” that have big shoes to fill from their predecessors.
– Story halts. For a 90 minute film, the pacing is a bit treacherous, especially during a second act, where too many brakes in the storytelling fluidity arrive. These come in the form of scenes where everything stops so we can catch up with a certain character, and while I commend the movie for adding continuation to someone so important to a past film, it adds very little in this present film except to remind audiences that they exist. I can say that for the first forty-five minutes of this film, it flew by in a way that made me want more, but the second half of that runtime grinds to a screeching halt so frequently that it starts to feel tedious on the resolution to the conflict that we once were so keen on discovering. It results in the film losing a lot of steam by the eventual finish, during a finale where an unlikely antagonist with the single worst French accent that I’ve ever heard is introduced to an already cluttered foreground of celebrity cameos and respective subplots.
– Cultural insensitivity. I hate to be a stickler during a Kevin Smith movie, but there are two foreign characters in the film who are highlighted for their weirdness and more importantly, stereotypes that have defied their cultures in cinema permanently. One is Middle Eastern, given the typical scarf of her people, as well as a huge knife that she keeps in her pocket, which is defined as being “A trait of your people”. Beyond this, there is also an Asian character, who despite living in America as long as she has, doesn’t speak a lick of English, and also is thought of as the strange, quiet girl of the group. Maybe I would be more accepting if there was a minority in the film who was presented on equal footing with their white co-stars. I’m not accusing Smith of anything in particular, but he should be making wiser decisions for ethnic diversity in his film.
– Illogical plot points. There are two of these that I point to in particularly. One is obviously the more important considering it is what the whole second act bombshell revolves around. When you consider the inconsistencies of this aspect from the previous “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” movie, you will know how impossible this newfound relationship between two characters even is. In addition to this, there’s a scene early on that contends likeness rights from Jay and Silent Bob, similar to the aforementioned film, where they weren’t given any royalties for their identities being stolen. The problem in this instance is that the paperwork from that previous film has already been signed, and anyone who knows media legalities will know that royalties are a continuous benefit that you can’t just sign over. Even if you can overlook this ridiculous inconsistency, the film never manages to bring it up again. It’s essentially a one scene conflict that lasts equally as long.
– Lens flares. The lone complaint that I have with the otherwise strong production value is in one scene involving a barrage of lens flares, that makes this feel like a Paul Thomas Anderson or J.J Abrams movie. The last name mentioned there is funny enough, because even Jason Mewes mentions that during a deleted scene that plays post-credits. While this problem is only evident during the final twenty minutes of the film, for shooting in an area filled with flash photography and variety in lighting schemes, the lasting impact of such soured a visual presentation that lived up to the big boys up until that time. With some light post-production work in color correcting and frame editing, this problem can easily be solved. Failure to do so gives the sequence of scenes a rushed quality of rendering that does no favors for its visual consistency.
My Grade: 6/10 or C