Travis Leamons // Film Critic
JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT
Rated R, 105 minutes.
Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Harley Quinn Smith, Shannon Elizabeth, Jason Lee, Justin Long, Melissa Benoist, Rosario Dawson, Ben Affleck, Val Kilmer, Joey Lauren Adams and Matt Damon
Jay and Silent Bob are back just in time to get rebooted. Unlike the Spider-Man franchise, which Sony Pictures seems to stop and restart with a different actor every few years, Kevin Smith had the decency to wait more than a decade to go back to the universe he created back in 1994 with his debut CLERKS. God (who looks like Alanis Morrisette) literally closed the book on his View Askewniverse with the release of 2001’s JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, a big-budgeted, cameo-laden sendoff for a pair best described as a drug-dealing Laurel and Hardy.
These boys from Leonardo, New Jersey, went from selling drugs in front of a Quick Stop convenience store to preventing Armageddon (no, not the Ben Affleck movie) to trying to stop a film based on their likenesses from being made.
Jay and Silent Bob’s retirement didn’t last long; they were back five years later with CLERKS II. That was supposed to be the end, but leave it to Smith to want to take a shot at Hollywood and its efforts to remake/reboot any and every intellectual property regardless if the public demanded it. Smith’s REBOOT intentionally recycles the plot of STRIKE BACK and impishly winks at Hollywood’s creative laziness and coopting nostalgia to make a buck.
At the outset, Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) are arrested for operating an illegal chicken sandwich/marijuana dispensary, and then accidentally sign away the reboot rights for another Bluntman and Chronic movie. Incensed, they again make the cross country odyssey from New Jersey to California to stop the production, which is being directed by Kevin Smith this time around.
An impromptu stop in Chicago finds Jay reuniting with old flame Justice (Shannon Elizabeth) and learning that he has a daughter, Millennium Fulken (Harley Quinn Smith). Milly doesn’t know that Jay is her dad, but uses his trip to Hollywood as an excuse so she and her friends can tagalong and attend Chronic-Con, an annual convention borne from the popularity of the Bluntman and Chronic characters. The convention is also where Smith is shooting the climax for BLUNTMAN V. CHRONIC. (I wonder if they discover their mothers are also named Martha?)
Justice isn’t the only blast from the past. Before Jay and Silent Bob leave Jersey, they meet up with Brodie (Jason Lee), whose Secret Stash comic shop has relocated to the same mall he and his bud T.S. used as their social hangout. Now it’s mostly abandoned; actual rats outnumber the mallrats. The duo’s social call allows Brodie to familiarize them with the term “reboot” and the critical differences between a reboot and a remake.
While some may call Kevin Smith lazy for making the same movie twice with REBOOT, that’s part of the joke. Here, the budget is scaled back tremendously, mainly out of necessity, to keep the production tight in terms of sets and locations. A lack of money allows Smith to call in some favors and have cameos pop in and out during Jay and Silent Bob’s trek across America. Familiar faces from the View Askewniverse offer callbacks, including Brian O’Halloran as dour, put-upon Quick Stop employee Dante, Loki (no, not Tom Hiddleston), and Ben Affleck as Holden McNeil, the guy responsible for creating Bluntman and Chronic.
When I watched JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT, it came right after finishing JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK. The viewing experience allowed me to reflect on my history with Kevin Smith’s movies and how my tastes in movies have changed in the last 18 years. STRIKE BACK was funny for its time, but it has not aged well (misogyny is not funny).
REBOOT offers catharsis. The comedy allows Kevin Smith to start fresh after a string of financial failures, not to mention having been nurtured as a filmmaker by Harvey Weinstein and Miramax. Plus, Smith and Mewes have had their share of health scares and substance abuse issues, and it is reflective in their screen alter egos. The secret sauce to REBOOT is perspective.
Smith approaches the story and its familiarity with the outlook of someone who has grown from a man-child into a man with a child. Jason Mewes dials it back as Jay, but he’s still the lewd and likable dim-wit fans love. Mewes carries the comedy through some rough patches that include some drug-fueled shenanigans with the KKK, Fred Armisen as a Ride Me Now driver, and a climax that looks to destroy American pop culture and the conventions that condone such things.
There’s still plenty of snoogans and snootchie bootchies to be had, though. The JAY AND SILENT BOB REBOOT is clunky but amusing, and with a good heart. (Affleck’s brief appearance offers the most significant highlight and life lesson.) This isn’t Smith as the ‘90s anarchist coming out blunts blazing. This is from the recreational user that passes more than he puffs. Warts and all, the seventh View Askew experience may not be as potent as previous strands, but it still provides a good high.
JAY AND SILENT BOB premiered theatrically in the U.S. on October 15, 2019 for two nights only. It is currently on a national theatrical tour with Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, titled, “The Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Roadshow.” Click here to find out if it’s coming to your city.