Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
Written and directed by Kevin Smith
Starring Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, Will Ferrell, and about a million cameos
First, let’s clear some air: despite what some people at the Associated Press and Reuters who are paid to write criticism would have you believe, you do not have to have seen any of Kevin Smith’s previous films (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, or Dogma) to enjoy his latest, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Yes, characters and situations from the previous films pop up here, not the least of whom are the titular protagonists (Jason Mewes and Smith, respectively), and there are bits that are funnier if you get the in joke (for example, one of Jason Lee’s characters offering a chocolate-covered pretzel may seem non-sequitur to those who haven’t seen ‘Rats), but you don’t really miss more than a few throwaway lines and situations, and you can certainly follow the story, even if this is your first exposure to the increasingly inaccurately-named “Jersey Trilogy.”
What will help you enjoy the film is having at least a passing familiarity with pop culture, as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back skewers more pop culture sacred cows than a good episode of Saturday Night Live (which is finally good again, as the appearance here of cast members Will Ferrell and Tracy Morgan attests). While Smith is being taken to task for this pop culture obsession elsewhere, it’s really not required that you’re more than passingly familiar with his targets, which on a whole, are widely known enough to be familiar to Smith’s target audience. I mean, come on, if the Wayans Brothers can do two Scary Movie flicks, certainly Scream is fair game, and American Pie is all over the place — to say nothing of the oddly familiar four teenagers and a Great Dane travelling in a beat-up green van.
And it’s the humor and satire that’s the are the main reason to see this movie, which is one of the funniest films in quite some time — perhaps since Smith’s own Clerks. There’s not a lot of plot — basically, Jay and Silent Bob go on a road trip to stop a movie based on characters based on them from being made so that people won’t talk smack about them on the Internet. The humor comes from the situations they encounter both on the road and once they reach Hollywood. I’m reluctant to give too much away, because half the fun of the film is in the surprise appearances and satires, especially the self-parody (one character says that a movie she appeared in “would never work as a movie,” for just one example). And the metatextual references and breaking of the third wall are so quick and so seamless, they’ll make your head spin (for example, there are multiple jokes at the expense of Smith alum Ben Affleck, who appears in a dual role in the film).
The true test is in the audience reaction, though, and at the sneak screening I attended, the audience’s laughter was often so boisterous that the next several lines of dialogue were drowned out. There’s no message, and it’s by no means a life-changing film, but Jay and Silent Bob won’t fail to make you laugh and forget your troubles for a while — it’s been nearly a week since I saw the film, and thinking back about key scenes still brings a smile to my face, if not outright laughter. It’s a fitting end to the Jersey Trilogy (stay for the credits for the full ending), and a film worth seeing more than once.