A director whose films have struck a chord with the 18-32 audience, Kevin Smith has also managed to bring his fans closer with his viewaskew.com website, where the director communicates with his fans. Speaking engagements at colleges began to become more and more popular and, for the past few years, Smith has spoke to increasingly larger audiences (there's about 3,200 people at one of the shows in the program) at schools across the country.
Smith's tone in his commentaries has never really been one of praise for himself, but sort of an "everyguy" vision of "How did I get here?" (at one point, Smith notes that God must exist if he actually has a film career). Although insecure, Smith has a fast wit and comes up with some bits about his career and personal life that are as funny as most stand-up acts today. "An Evening With Kevin Smith" is an over three-hour compilation of Smith's Q & A sessions at various colleges, where he discusses his views of himself, his own films, religion and various aspects of popular culture.
Produced and directed by famed DVD documentary producer J.M. Kenny, the film is a very professional looking piece, with nice camera work and only a few little odds and ends that don't seem too necessary (some of the interviews with the college kids before the shows that is inserted early on gets kinda repetitive and doesn't offer that much). The kids in the various audiences respond to just about anything, even laughing when Smith goofs on their silliness (most amusingly when Smith goes into a whole bit after refusing to dance on-stage when a student requests he do it, quickly followed by students banging on the outside window trying to get in - they get in, only to have to dance for the audience).
As with the commentaries for his own films, Smith is outspoken and clearly unafraid to joke about and go after friends and other industry folks - a particularly funny target remains Smith's "Chasing Amy" star Ben Affleck, who Smith talks about tricking into doing his "Jersey Girl" before Affleck's "Daredevil". Jason Mewes also sits on stage during one of the shows, although pretty much to be the target of Smith's jokes. There's also some discussion of working with the studio system and a particularly hilarious discussion of trying to explain to the studio that their "Superman Lives" script "sucked", along with how Smith's version of the script ran into trouble with Tim Burton and the resulting press battle between the two.
Mostly though, "An Evening With Kevin Smith" has the director discussing and responding to his career, going through how he met with his View Askew associates and how he responded to the "Dogma" controversy, among other things. Quite a bit of time is also devoted to inspirations for characters and stories, as well as questions like financing and other aspects of production. Smith's comments are frequently hilarious and unexpected, with the director's comic timing here far sharper than even the often-witty commentaries that he's provided for the DVDs of his films. The Columbia/Tristar people who came up with the idea to capture Smith on-stage should be praised; not many would get the chance to see these shows and they're incredibly entertaining.
VIDEO: "An Evening With Kevin Smith" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. The production is quite well-filmed, although there are some minor flaws that occasionally pop up. Sharpness and detail are quite nice, as the well-lit documentary clearly shows either Smith or audience members asking questions.
As for the flaws, they generally seem intentional given the filming style. Slight shimmer is occasionally apparent, while a bit grain is also visible here and there. No edge enhancement is present, but there were a couple of little traces of pixelation in a scene or two. The fairly subdued color palette was nicely presented, with no smearing.
SOUND: The soundtrack is a basic 2.0 documentary soundtrack, with Smith's dialogue and the questions from the audience clearly heard.
EXTRAS: There's really little in the way of supplements here - all that's offered are a few trailers. While some outtakes or commentary (Ben Affleck commentary would've been amusing), the main program is more than entertaining enough.
Final Thoughts: Smith's discussion of his life, views and career throughout this program is fast, hilarious and often brilliant. I haven't laughed this much all year. Columbia/Tristar's DVD release doesn't offer much in the way of supplements, but audio/video quality's fine. A must for fans of Smith's films, but it should definitely be checked out by casual fans, as well.