Part of the reason I started this blog is so I could give people an honest, unfiltered opinion on movies, wholly removed from your standard critics, who largely fit into two categories. Basically they’re either funded by the studios and their parent companies to generate pull quotes for advertising, or they’re high falutin types who turn their nose up at basically anything that isn’t a hyper-literary form of art, usually from esoteric sources.
One recent example of this is the A.V. Club’s review of Kevin Smith’s latest film, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. Giving the film a D+, the reviewer called the film crude and spent six lengthy paragraphs denigrating it before summing it all up with the only part that matters: “No one who has even considered buying a ticket to see Jay And Silent Bob Reboot needs this review.”
My immediate response to that is, “THEN WHY THE FUCK DID YOU BOTHER WITH THE REVIEW IN THE FIRST PLACE?!” For its initial release last week, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot was only available in a “two nights only” Fathom Events screening. You had to make an effort to see it. Given that, why go to the trouble of trashing this movie? The critic concedes that the review is pointless, because only fans will see it, and those fans have to actually go out of their way to do so. So all I can think is that the reviewer decided that he needed to prove that he was somehow better than Kevin Smith, that he was smarter than the room. And it’s moments like these that really anger me, because while I sometimes agree with his takes and sometimes not, right now he just comes off like the characters on South Park who like to smell their own farts.
To do a review like that is to miss the point entirely. The most honest way to do it is to take the film as it’s intended, which I try to do a lot, though I’m not perfect. Most of the time that mandate is inherent in the process, as most films are intended to either be entertaining and/or make money (depending on the project and studio, the priority of those two aims can vary). In that vein, the purpose of a review is to determine if a movie (or TV show, music album, piece of art, taco platter, etc.) is entertaining, and therefore whether or not it deserves to make money.
But as the writer concedes, that’s not the purpose of this movie. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is for the fans of Kevin Smith and the View Askewniverse, the vast majority of whom will be entertained no matter what. And since this film is much more a low-budget love letter than a commercial entry, it literally doesn’t matter how much money it makes, because the intent goes way beyond that. Also, given the release model, it’s not going to make a bunch of money anyway.
About a year and a half ago, Kevin Smith had a near fatal heart attack. As he’s mentioned several times in the months since then (including in an introduction vignette before the film played), one of the things that lingered on his mind back then was what would have happened if he had died and not been able to make this flick. Given the small scale of the production, that almost sounds like a joke, but once you see the movie, you’ll know exactly what he really means.
Smith burst on the scene with Clerks 25 years ago. Since then he has cultivated a loyal following with his films, both within and outside the View Askew/New Jersey comedy model. And while a great deal of his recent work has been made for those very people who would already buy in, his true concern on his way to the operating table was that he would never be able to tell those millions of fans how he truly felt about them, how grateful he was for their support. More importantly, as father to the then-18-year-old Harley Quinn Smith, he didn’t want to go without letting her know exactly how happy he was to be her dad.
That is what Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is all about. It’s a thank you to Kevin Smith’s fans and a love letter to his daughter. And with that as the true intent, the film succeeds in spades.
After getting arrested for possession yet again, the titular duo (Jason Mewes and Smith himself) are tricked by their attorney (Justin Long) into signing away the rights to their names, identities, and the fictional comic book characters based on them, Bluntman and Chronic. Having failed to thwart the production of a Bluntman and Chronic movie in their last leading adventure, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, they learn from good pal Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee) that Saban Films (who released this movie) is making a reboot, to be directed by none other than that stoner hack himself, Kevin Smith. If you’re high right now, your head probably just exploded. So now it’s up to Jay and Bob to hit the road once again to get to Hollywood and put a stop to the movie, which is filming a scene at a Bluntman and Chronic convention, aptly named “ChronicCon.”
The road trip contains a litany of callbacks to previous Smith works, bringing back several characters and actors for cameos. Some work better than others, obviously (it’s nice to see Matt Damon as Angel of Death Loki, but he’s just there for a scene transition and a bit of unrelated exposition, which while funny, pales in comparison to finding out who’s been gumming up the locks at the Quick Stop, for example), but the winking fan service is more than appreciated. Basically every regular View Askew player makes a comeback in one form or another, save Jeff Anderson (but at least he’s finally on board for Clerks III!), and the results range from one-note “HAH!” to funny running gag to downright sentimental, and they all work on their own level. In addition, Smith peppers in a few bits of meta commentary on his own life, including multiple gags about his newly-adopted vegan diet, and the controversy of Southwest Airlines declaring him too fat to fly on their planes a few years back. The shots are easy, low-hanging fruit, but they’re funny nonetheless. The plot doesn’t 100% make sense (for instance how a ride share driver played by Fred Armisen tracks them down midway through the film but never appears again afterward), but again, this is fan service, so who really cares, especially when we see Silent Bob’s uproarious new form of communication?
When the duo hits Chicago, Jay reunites with Justice (Shannon Elizabeth), his Boo Boo Kitty Fuck from Strike Back. In true Jay fashion, it turns out their relationship ended because during Justice’s prison stint, conjugal visits weren’t allowed. The big surprise for Jay is meeting Millennium Faulken, aka “Milly” (Harley Quinn Smith), his love child with Justice. Justice is married to a woman now (Rosario Dawson), and Milly has never known who her father is. After Justice and Reggie head out on vacation, Milly and her “hetero life mate” Sopapilla (Treshelle Edmond) – who is deaf to mirror Bob’s usual muteness – threaten Jay and Bob to take them to ChronicCon as well, once they pick up two more girl friends, Jihad (Aparna Brielle) and Shan Yu (Alice Wen).
The girl gang somewhat mirrors Justice’s gang of jewel thieves from the last movie, though as it’s noted, they’re mostly there to provide youth and diversity, an essential ingredient that differentiates reboots from remakes, as Brodie hilariously explains early on. Their mission is to go to ChronicCon because Shan Yu is a huge Bluntman and Chronic fan and wants to be an extra in the new movie before she goes back home to China after her year as an exchange student. The group also became friends and bonded over the fact that none of them know their fathers. This last bit could have been played for cheap “daddy issue” gags, but Smith treats it with a genuine sentimentality that gets the point across without ever feeling mawkish.
The jokes and cameos dominate the proceedings, as well they should, including a truly inspired appearance by Chris Hemsworth via hologram. But Smith – who is about as earnest and sincere a filmmaker as they come regardless of critical or commercial success – also finds the absolute right moments to have Jay wrestle with the idea that he’s a father, and that he missed out on everything good and bad about being a dad. After a heartwarming reunion with Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams) and Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck, who was the bomb in Phantoms, yo), it becomes crystal clear why Smith made this movie. Yes, it’s a bit nepotistic to cast his wife and daughter in everything he does (which Milly herself notes in the movie), but the man very nearly died, and a near-death experience can make you take stock about what really matters in life.
For Kevin Smith, his experience showed him what really matters is appreciating the people who’ve helped him live his dream, and how much he cherishes the fact that he gets to be a dad to Harley. So yeah, most times a movie review can and should be about how quality something is, and people can like what they want to like. But to blast this movie after conceding that you could have just left well enough alone (A.V. Club literally does a list at the end of the year of good movies they didn’t review, so it’s not like they’re obligated to rate everything) is to just come off as snooty and elitist. Take the movie for what it is, and within the context of what it’s intended to be. This was not meant to be an Oscar contender, nor should it have been. It’s just a love letter, and a well-received one at that, especially from die-hard fans like me. Kevin Smith is thanking us, yet all I could do when I left the theatre was thank him.
Now, if you want to see this movie, you will have to put out an additional effort. The Fathom screenings are over, but what Smith and Mewes are doing in the meantime is a series of theatre shows and speaking events called the Reboot Roadshow. You can find details and buy tickets here, but the long and short of it is that on these tour dates, you can see the film, followed by a Q&A session with Smith and Mewes. After the tour leaves town, the film will open in wider release within that market. The Roadshow started in Asbury Park, NJ (highly appropriate) last week, and is in Chicago as of this writing. Look for more dates in your area, and avoid high horses at all costs.
Join the conversation in the comments below! What film should I review next? Are you a Kevin Smith fan, and if so, what’s your favorite of his works? Have you ever snooched to the nooch? Does it hurt? Let me know!