Kevin Smith goes long...again
The Story So Far...
Though it certainly starts out like any of his appearances, with the exception of the animated opening sequence (by Smodimation artist Steve Stark), as Smith begins addressing the crowd, he's interrupted by someone shouting about Southwest Airlines, the air carrier he had a controversial run-in with (the incident that inspired this special's name.) So in response, he tells the origin of his tour bus, in which he traveled the country. 26 minutes later, he takes his first question, "What was it like to finally get to direct Bruce Willis, or did he direct you?" And with that, a man who has admitted time has lost some meaning thanks to his pot smoking, goes on to talk for nearly three hours, without any more interruption than a round of applause.
Smith can be a bit verbose in the A's to his audience's Q's, but three hours would be downright excessive when it comes to answering one question. Fortunately, during that time, he winds his way through a number of topics, including the question asked, his adoption of marijuana as a muse/motivator, his films, his heroes (including Wayne Gretzky and George Carlin) and his misadventures with authority figures, be they working for airlines or governments (both at home and abroad.) Though I'm no fan of pot comedy, there's no denying the story of him and his wife smoking for the first time is hilarious, and I'm not a big Gretzky fan either, but his discovery of a messiah born of Canada is equally funny. The power is in how he tells these stories, the details he includes and the inflections and tones he uses. The segment on Carlin on the other hand isn't really focused on being funny, but it certainly belongs here, as it has all the heart that informs Smith's best work.
While Smith is an extremely entertaining speaker, there are a few issues I had with this particular presentation, starting with the structure. Part of the enjoyment in these Q&As is the pacing, and taking various questions from the audience is a big part of that. While it's not as if Smith lets the proceedings get slow or anything, him just talking is a bit more like a lecture than his usual presentation. I can't say it truly suffered for it, but the energy felt different. Also different is the story about Cop-Out and Bruce Willis. While this particular issue isn't going to affect the vast majority of those watching, it will in a way they don't know. That's because your humble reviewer was present when Smith spoke before a select crowd on Long Island a few months after this special was filmed, and the Willis story was far more involved, far more detailed and far more emotional. It's unfortunate that that story (which was supposedly recorded for a podcast that has yet to appear) was a secret for those in the room (and anywhere else he might have told it) when it deserves to be heard by so many more.
The other issue I found was the inclusion of the Southwest stories, told in two parts during the night. Perhaps I watch and listen to more of Smith than most people, but I've heard this story many, many times, in many, many ways, and at this point, it's a bit tired. The tale is still amusing, but it's become a bit too familiar at this point, and when put alongside new material, it lacks punch, especially on such a special occasion for the man.
The sound is even more frustrating, offering up just a Dolby Digital 2.0 track that sits front and center, with nothing to enhance the experience. Put the viewer in the audience. Good DVDs do this well, putting the comic in the middle, while their echos and the audience fill the side and rear speakers. Blu-Rays have no excuse to not at least meet this standard. Thankfully Smith's comes off clear and easy to understand, with no distortion.
Oddly, the second disc of this set is a DVD, rather than a Blu-Ray, so the amount of content is limited, as is the quality, but at least there's some bonus content. After wrapping up his one-question main show, Smith opened up the mics for more crowd inquiries, with another 49 minutes of chat offered here (why the rest of the encore was cut is an unfortunate mystery (perhaps a lack of clearances?)) Right off the bat, the first two participants show just what the main special was missing, and that's the unique flavor of Smith's fans. The crowd at a Smith show can quickly turn on the person at the mic if they a) ramble or b) talk about themselves too much (after all, everyone wants a bit of the limited mic time) which creates a touch of drama, but Smith often saves the day, turning things around with a joke, a call for respect or a request for the time-suck to sit down. This set of clips is more in line with his usual presentation and may be more enjoyable to some fans than the main special.
"The Secret Behind the Stash" spends a tad over seven minutes looking at the effort that went into making the special, mixed with a mini-tour of Smith's New Jersey comic-book store, Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash. Fans probably have already taken a pilgrimage to the shop (or at least have solid knowledge of it) so there's not much new on that front (the store doesn't look to have changed much in the 10 years since I last visited.) The look behind the scenes is more interesting, as the co-directors offer a quick run-down of the tech and effort the production required.
The Bottom Line