Holden: "It's a place used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography together."
Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) have been eking out a living in New Jersey by selling dime bags in front of the Quik Stop convenience store for the better part of four movies now. One of the fed-up clerks at the Block of Stores™ calls in the fuzz, eventually leading to a restraining order. While looking for a new store to lean against and peddle their weedy wares, Jay and Silent Bob learn that a comic book heavily inspired by them -- Bluntman and Chronic -- is being developed into a major motion picture, without their approval or any cash coming their way. If that weren't enough, moviepoopshoot.com is fat-packed with seething folks sullying the good name of Jay and his hetero life partner. Jay's response is to make the trek to Hollywood to shut production down. No movie, no flaming. On the way there, among other wacky misadventures, our erstwhile heroes stumble upon a group of curiously named animal activists, and Jay falls head over heels in love with one of their members, Justice (Shannon Elizabeth). Little do they know (I could stop the sentence right here; apologies for reusing this weak joke so many times) that they're being set up as patsies for a much larger, more devious operation than mere monkey liberation. Even if they do survive and make it to La-La Land, Jay and Silent Bob have to deal with the FBI and a half-witted wildlife marshall (Will Ferrell), who relentlessly pursue them across the country. I should probably cobble together some sort of summary sentence, but I'm not a very good writer. Sorry.
It's a pity that February 14th didn't fall on a Tuesday this year. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is Kevin Smith's valentine, sealed with a kiss and numerous security stickers, to fans of the universe he's created. Smith admits in the DVD's commentary track that despite his claims around the time of the film's theatrical release, it's difficult to fully enjoy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back without having watched the previous entries in the series. References to the other four movies -- Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma -- fly by seemingly every few seconds, and two actors play double roles that are sure to leave people attracted to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back from its aggressive ad campaign completely stymied. The plot, as threadbare as it is, entirely depends on at least a cursory knowledge of what's happened in the series, particularly Clerks and Chasing Amy. This is all not necessarily a negative. As a card-carrying member of the Exposition Defamation League, I have no problem that there isn't really any set up at all. Even though I missed the first two movies in the trilogy (well, a trilogy in the Douglas Adams sense, I suppose), I was familiar enough with the material to get by without feeling as if too much was soaring clear over my head. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back got a huge promotional push from the Mouse House leading up to its release, and though that led to Smith's biggest first weekend numbers to date, I'd imagine many of the people those TV spots reached might've decided to hold off till this DVD release to give the movie a gander. Just an extraordinarily overextended heads-up to those who may be unaware.
I was neither impressed nor disappointed with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Up to this point, Jay and Silent Bob have been supporting players in the Askewniverse, with their vulgarity tempered by the underlying sweetness and intelligence of the characters they invariably irritate. As the way-hetero duo takes center stage, so does their distinctive style of humor. One major difference between Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and the vast majority of banal comedies nowadays is that Smith is bright enough to know how to most effectively use gags that most would consider pretty dumb, and enough of the trademark movie references and the like are interspersed throughout to liven things up a bit. This is definitely a comedy, unlike the other View Askew films that seem as if they could teeter over into a couple of other genres as well. There are a few laughs to be had, but the comedy is uneven, and by the time you hit Jay's 37th blowjob joke in the space of an hour, even a fake smile is hard to muster. I thought Dogma as a whole was funnier, if that's any indication.
Though Jay probably was not the strongest character to center a movie around, the numerous cameos are pretty well done, as is the casting as a whole. George Carlin, Carrie Fisher, Chris Rock, Seann William Scott, Mark Hamill, Judd Nelson, Ben Affleck, Jon Stewart, Matt Damon, Shannon Doherty, Wes Craven, Gus Van Sant, and the (hey!) surprise actors slated to portray Bluntman and Chronic (along with a few I'm almost certainly forgetting) are wonderful in their few moments on-screen, and discussion of the most memorable scenes in the movie are likely to revolve around one of them. The faux-radical animal activists subplot drags on a little too long, presenting the only real issue with pacing in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, though it's always a pleasure to see Eliza Dushku as yet another bitchy brunette. The most consistently hysterical character, bar-none, is Will Ferrell as the hopelessly inept wildlife marshall. Though quite a few cast members have left Saturday Night Live behind to kick off careers in Hollywood, Farrell is one of very few who I'd actually like to see grabbing roles on the big screen. I don't know if he could carry a movie himself, but Farrell seems destined to be one of those legendary sidemen.
As you probably could've guessed from the lengthy rant a few paragraphs back, this is a movie intended for Kevin Smith's devoted fanbase, not the sort of people who casually skim the comedy aisles of Blockbuster. If you've enjoyed any of Smith's work so far, you will probably get a kick out of this movie too, though perhaps not quite to the same extent. If you don't care for Smith or his films at all, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back isn't likely to change your mind any. Its DVD release is pretty remarkable, even if the movie itself is not, and that's saying quite a bit considering the massive special editions surrounding the other four View Askew films.
Video: Kevin Smith's priciest film is also his best looking. Using the same 2.35:1 frame as his previous effort, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back benefits greatly from the presence of cinematographers Billy Clevenger and Jamie Anderson, as well as the natural progression of Smith's skill and comfort behind the camera. Its presentation here is an absolute knock-out, not only eclipsing the other View Askew films, but a pretty hefty portion of DVDs, period. The crisp, highly detailed image has a thoroughly film-like, three-dimensional appearance, more so than any other movie I've watched on DVD in the past few months. Colors are vibrant and rich throughout, most notably once Jay and Silent Bob stumble upon the Bluntman and Chronic set in one of the movie's most hysterical sequences. There are, as expected, no print flaws whatsoever, nor are there any nasty of dust or flecks. The haloing that sometimes accompanies scope films on DVD isn't present to any appreciable degree, and I didn't spot any intrusive grain either. I'm wholly unable to find anything remotely negative to say. Truly impressive work.
Audio: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back sounds nearly as great as it looks, and after skimming a list of previous works from the film's sound department (both Toy Storys, Pitch Black, the Jurassic Park series, and Terminator II, among many others, the quality of the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is not an earth-shattering surprise. James Venable, who contributed music for the Clerks animated series, as well as Samurai Jack and The Powerpuff Girls, has composed a bouncy, cartoonish score that makes effective use of all of the channels at its disposal. Surrounds aren't always roaring with activity outside of the standard ambiance and music, though they are still much more active than in more traditional comedy mixes, particularly in its more action-driven scenes. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is certainly the most interesting of any of the View Askew films in terms of audio, and this mix, tweaked for release on DVD, sounds very nice indeed. The standard French dub, accompanied by English closed captions and a variety of subtitles, are included as well.
Supplements: The requisite View Askew commentary this go-around consists of a smaller panel than usual...just Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, and producer Scott Mosier. The past few commentaries I've heard with Smith have been more entertaining than the material they're discussing, and I was hoping for more of the same with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Alas, fewer participants and no Ben Affleck means less of th' funny, I've afraid. There are some pretty good jabs and quips, but nothing particularly memorable. I'm writing this eight days after listening to the commentary, and pretty much all I remember is Smith's admission that the movie is one long in-joke, along with some scattered explanations of the more inside humor. Much of that can be attributed to my notoriously bad memory, but with gags from the Clerks animated series forever etched in my mind, I'd imagine there's a little more to it than that. Oh well.
The deleted scenes, at least after factoring in the introductions from Smith and company, are feature-length in and of themselves, running a full hour and a half. Miramax was kind enough to include a 'Play All' feature to minimize blisters from repeatedly whacking the 'Enter' button on our DVD remotes. There's nothing quite on the same level as the Fat Albert sequence in Dogma, and this footage were either trimmed for time, gags that didn't really work for test audiences, and content that the MPAA deemed NC-17-worthy. The introductions often run longer than the brief snippets of deleted footage, the majority of which was rightly excised. It's worthwhile just to see Ali Larter dry-humping Kevin Smith's wife, though, and fans of the animated series will enjoy the Kid in the Helmet being brought to life.
Kevin Smith is very open about his intense hatred of improvisation, but a few brief clips that apparently rubbed him the right way are included in a segment curiously titled "Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash". The footage, which seemed relatively laughless to me, is divided into four distinct sections and introduced by Smith and Mewes. The gag reel (also known as "Why Movies Cost So Much") that debuted at ComiCon runs around ten minutes and, as is generally the case, primarily consists of actors flubbing lines and laughing uncontrollably. I don't find actors laughing to be particularly compelling, but there's a part where Affleck can't get one line down, and he bursts into hysterics for what seems like a couple of minutes. That's just a small portion of the reel, but the laughter at the 'them apples' line sold the deal for me.
A standard fifteen minute 'behind the scenes' featurette is included, along with the Reel Comedy special from Comedy Central. Neither really warrant any comments, and though their inclusion is appreciated, those two features seem more heavily geared towards trying to entice people to see the movie rather than entertain those who've already plunked down twenty bucks for this DVD set. Kevin Smith is a devout fan of Purple Rain, and he saw fit to not only include Morris Day and the Time in his latest production, but to focus on the band in a couple of special features as well. One is a basic rundown of the history of the Minneapolis band, and the other is a behind-the-scenes peek at their performance of their best-known single before the credits roll.
I'm not even close to being done. There are production stills, conceptual art, comic art, and storyboards. Trailers for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and some of Smith's other work are included on the first disc, and both of the Internet trailers and a whopping six television spots can be found on disc two. A pair of music videos featuring the film's title characters -- an unedited version of Afroman's raunchy "Because I Got High" and the paint-by-numbers AOR rock of Stroke 9's "Kick Some Ass" are included, along with a DVD-ROM screenplay and the obligatory cast/crew bios.
Conclusion: This two-disc set of Kevin Smith's final entry in the Askewniverse is his best DVD release yet, and considering the extraordinarily high quality of his titles to date, that's saying quite a lot. It's one of the more comprehensive special editions I've ever seen, and it's not difficult at all to spend an entire day delving into the set in its entirety. Response to the film itself on the usual message boards seemed to be rather mixed, with little gray area in between the 'love it' and 'hate it' tirades. I would probably have enjoyed Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back more if I'd seen Clerks and Mallrats beforehand (shameful, I know) and if my memories of Chasing Amy weren't quite so fuzzy. With the prices of the other movies in the New Jersey 'trilogy' plummeting and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back going for as low as twelve bucks with some in-store deals, it's definitely worth it for the uninitiated to grab this set while the getting's good. Let it sit on the shelf until you've had a chance to absorb the others, though. Not Smith's best work, in my predictably humble opinion, but still recommended.