Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Rated R for nonstop crude and sexual humor, pervasive strong language, and drug content

Score: 4 out of 5

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is a movie that shouldn't work nearly as well as it does. The plot is pure farce, the jokes sometimes -- okay, frequently -- violate all lines of good taste, and it begs comparison to the other films in writer/director Kevin Smith's "View Askewniverse", most notably his groundbreaking debut Clerks and the film he made before this (and arguably his best one yet), the religious satire Dogma. It's a pretty lightweight, fluffy movie overall, and yet it's just so damn hilarious. It may be one hundred and four minutes of non-stop gay jokes, fart jokes, innuendos, stoner humor, celebrity cameos, pop culture references, and hot babes, but it's done by Kevin Smith still in his prime, and he knows how to make it all just work. Even if you've never seen any of the View Askewniverse films before this (this was my introduction to them), it's still a hysterical, laugh-out-loud comedy.

The plot revolves around Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith), a pair of slacker drug dealers and recurring characters in the View Askewniverse who spend their days hanging out in front of a convenience store slinging weed. When the store's owners Dante and Randall (the protagonists of Clerks) finally get sick of the two and file a restraining order against them, they find themselves at a crossroads. Before long, they find out from their pals Brodie (from Mallrats, played by Jason Lee) and Holden (from Chasing Amy, played by Ben Affleck) that Bluntman and Chronic, an indie comic book that Holden and his friend Banky (also played by Jason Lee) created, is being made into a movie by Miramax, because nowadays every comic book is being turned into a movie in the hopes of striking that box-office gold. (Some things never change.) Given that the titular characters were heavily inspired by Jay and Silent Bob, the two of them start wondering where their royalty checks are... and then they go onto this newfangled thing called "the internet" and find out that movie nerds are pretty much tearing the film apart, calling the protagonists a pair of stoner losers, and who'd want to watch two hours of low-brow weed jokes? (*ahem*) Outraged, Jay and Silent Bob embark on a road trip from New Jersey to Hollywood to both get their share of the money and sabotage the movie's production so that their good names won't be tarnished by those totally fictional layabouts who share their names. Along the way, they encounter the "book of the road", the gang from Scooby-Doo, a quartet of sexy female jewel thieves (Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter, and Smith's wife Jennifer) posing as eco-activists, a bumbling federal wildlife marshal (Will Ferrell), an orangutan, and a who's who of Hollywood celebrity cameos.

Above all else, the thing that keeps this movie firing on all cylinders throughout is its sheer, unstoppable energy. Sure, every now and then there was a gag that made me cringe for all the wrong reasons (particularly the film's occasional overreliance on gay jokes), but right afterwards, there were five more that just had me rolling on the sofa laughing. It's a film that's constantly able to push past the jokes that didn't work in order to throw something else at the wall and see if it sticks, never letting itself linger on a potentially unfunny moment for too long. It's a machine gun of a comedy comparable to Airplane!, constantly seeking out and, more often than not, finding new ways to bust my gut with hysterical laughter. Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith know these two characters like the back of their hand, and their timing is impeccable, playing what are effectively Beavis and Butt-head blazed out of their minds while also giving their seemingly simple characters some depth. They're the heart and soul of this movie, and they bring it all together in good-humored, if highly raunchy, fun.

The supporting cast is great too, most of all Shannon Elizabeth as the crook who falls for Jay. Between this and Scary Movie, I'm convinced that she could've easily branched out beyond sexpot roles (as gorgeous as she is) and become a genuine comedy star. Will Ferrell plays a traditionally Ferrell-y role as the cocky-yet-dumb cop, and while it's not much of a stretch, he still flies high with it. Chris Rock gets to go nuts as a power-tripping, black supremacist director who relishes the fact that, as the man at the helm of a summer blockbuster, it's now his turn to lord it over his white assistants. Seemingly half of Hollywood makes cameos in an over-the-top third act that rivals the ending of Blazing Saddles. All the characters are ridiculous, stupid, broadly-written stereotypes whose motivations make little sense, the plot driving them rather than vice versa, but when the plot itself is an equally ridiculous farce that's there simply an excuse to ask "hey, wouldn't it be funny if they made a sequel to Good Will Hunting that was a badass action movie?", it hardly matters as long as I was laughing, which I was constantly. And while some of the humor doesn't hold up so well in hindsight, the jokes making fun of internet tough guys are arguably funnier now in 2016 than they were in 2001. Without spoiling anything, the ending of this movie was pure cathartic gold for anybody who's ever gotten into an argument on the internet with some asshole.

The Bottom Line:

Parts of it don't really work nowadays, but so much of it still does that it's easy to overlook these moments. Whether you're a fan of Kevin Smith's movies or have no idea that they existed, this is still a very funny comedy.

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