Not quite sure what to do with himself, Kevin Smith has dealt himself the ultimate death blow with his latest effort, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” This half-assed debauchery focuses on a pair of background characters with about as much depth as the front-porch wading pools that surfaced during Madison’s scorching summer heat. Not that Jay and Silent Bob never held any interesting qualities. In fact, as the shady drug-dealing low-lifes who lurked outside the Quickstop in “Clerks,” they were brilliant sideshows to the brain-picking going on inside. But cult-favorite background characters are cult-favorite background characters, and they’re best left that way. I don’t recall a sequel about Chunk, Shortstuff, Slimer or Bobba Fett –although we shouldn’t second-guess George Lucas at this point.
The point, however, is not that Smith has gone and done the movie equivalent of sticking a flare gun up his nose. Instead, we should question how he got to this point, such that he has the power to convince a studio to allow him to go ahead with such an atrocious project. I have a vivid picture in my mind of a cocky Smith pitching his idea. “Yeah, so … ummm … I want to do this picture about everything I think is funny, and have all the people I think are funny be in it. Oh, and there’s going to be a monkey and a ton of shots at the state of Hollywood in it –but that’s all I really know. Snoochie Boochies?”
Let us quickly run by Smith’s list of “cool” pop-culture items that he deemed deserving of shout-outs in the form of dialogue references, cameos and background, t-shirt and hat appearances: The cast of “Star Wars.” “Clerks.” Drug references in Scooby Doo –how clich?. “Mallrats.” “Daredevil” –which he once wrote for –and various other comic books. “Chasing Amy.” Morris Day and the Time, which just so happen to be about the coolest concept band since Devo. “Dogma.” 80s monkey/cop movies. Will Farrell –double clich?. His girlfriend-at-the-time. Did I mention Kevin Smith movies?
Oh, by the way, according to Smith, Internet gossip, cops, sell-out actors and butt sex aren’t cool anymore. Good thing we have Smith to tell us what’s up.
It is almost inconceivable that any man in Hollywood short of Woody Allen could pitch such a project and get the green light, yet “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” plays at all the local theaters.
How is it that making four half-rate, yet occasionally insightful teen flicks (they are teen flicks and you cannot deny it) that really made no money, justifies being able to demand whatever you want?
Simply put, through some na-ve studio head’s insane misconception of the term “earn,” Smith has earned and achieved “Woody Allen status” –the ability to do whatever to whomever, whenever and with whomever he wants onscreen.
“Yes, Mr. Smith. You want Bobcat Goldthwait, Anthony Hopkins, Carrot Top and Dame Judi Dench to lead in your new movie? Right away, sir. And you want them all to make out? Got it.” I have visions of henchmen whacking these actors over the head and forcing them to perform their roles, but it seems Smith has not only Hollywood executives convinced of his talent, but actors as well.
At least Allen has the respectability to disguise his infamous rants, personal views and more refined shout-outs to jazz musicians and literature under deep layers of insightful comedy, clever dialogue and even plots — gasp.
Granted, both have made the shameless move from behind the camera to in front of it, but only Allen seems have any actor in him, whereas Smith resembles the long-lost, “slow” Marx Brother: Fatso.
With presumably nothing substantial left to say, Smith needs to take a break. Otherwise, might I suggest another “Cannonball Run” sequel for his next project. He’s got a huge cast just waiting to work with him again, and he could even sit in for Dom DeLuise.
Breaking it down: Woody Allen VERSUS Kevin Smith
In a sentence:
Allen: Neurotic Jew obsessed with death, relationships, and younger, more attractive women.
Smith: Mute stoner obsessed with pot, himself, and younger, more attractive women.
Proud to call home:
A: New York boy.
S: Jersey boy.
A: Gershwin. Plays oboe every Monday night in NYC.
S: “Cuz I Get High,” “Berserker,” “Chewbacca (What a Wookie).” Plays the skin flute, according to Jay.
Where you’ll (not) find him:
A: Knicks games; not the Oscars.
S: Comic-book shows; not Jenny Craig.
A: Ingmar Bergman
Religion of choice:
A: Judaism, duh.
EDGE: Tie; sorry babe
Got it on with:
A: Mia Farrow , Diane Keaton
S: Joey Lauren Adams
EDGE: Easy Allen