Jay and Silent Bob Reboot ★★★

Kevin Smith kind of bridged the gap between independent film and mainstream cinema by fusing geeky but popular interests ("Star Wars", comic book), frank discussions of sexual subjects and sharply written, observant dialogue about Life in general that also touched upon the subjects I just mentioned. It was an electrifying combination, one that had the same thoughtful discussions that most independent films of the time were built upon but was more accessible.

But as time went on, it seemed like his propensity for dick and fart jokes kind of overwhelmed everything else. After "Dogma", which was a thoughtful, silly, but heartfelt examination of religion by fusing it with a certain comic book sensibility and love of dense mythology, he delivered "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" which had almost none of sharp, incisive dialogue and contemplation that made his work so rich and kind of doubled (or quadrupled, really) down on the dick and fart jokes. It probably remains my least favorite Kevin Smith movie, and that's not too surprising because, honestly, Jay and Silent Bob are probably my least favorite characters in any Kevin Smith film. They're the embodiment of his most obnoxious tendencies, and I have to wrestle with them whenever I get in a Kevin Smith mood (they're the least good thing about "Dogma", in my opinion).

But I like Kevin Smith. I like that he's been mixing it up in different genres recently ("Red State" is a lot more successful than "Tusk", but "Tusk" is mesmerizingly strange). I also like that he's built an empire in podcasting by chatting about his loves and obsessions at great length. If you want to see an example of a fully self-made pop culture juggernaut, it's hard to think of a more perfect example than Kevin Smith. He exists outside the usual Hollywood machinery, and seems to kind of wilt within that system (I haven't seen "CopOut" but it doesn't sound good). In short, I admire a lot of things about Smith. I came to him early in his career (I had a couple of friends in high school who rented basically any recent film and watched it on Friday nights, and "Mallrats" was one of those movies...and I immediately recognized that there was something special there) and have largely stuck by him through it all (except for "CopOut", which I didn't even actively avoid...I just didn't get around to it yet).

So it was that I was intrigued enough by his return to the View Askewniverse of his own creation that I had to check it out as soon as I could, even though it centers on my two least favorite Smith characters. And I can't say I was disappointed. I wish there had been more of the sharp, intelligent discussions that I loved from movies like "Clerks", "Chasing Amy" (maybe his best film) and "Clerks 2" (which is perhaps my favorite of his films) but Smith is sincere and heartfelt about his dick and fart jokes. Also, in the decades since he has started (it's somehow been 25 years since "Clerks"...fuck, I am old) his interests in comics and "Star Wars" have gone from geeky niche items to the defining pillars of culture. The secret language that Kevin once spoke fluently has now become the official language of pop culture. It's interesting to see Kevin comment upon these things again, now that they have moved into the spotlight. It's also, I must admit, really great to see these old characters and actors again. I don't know if I realized actors like Shannon Elizabeth and Jason Biggs have vanished from the culture until I saw them here. The nostalgia that hit me when I saw them here was unexpectedly strong.

I found my heart unexpectedly warmed a lot here, and not just by those once-familiar 90s era faces and seeing how they've aged (incidentally, I am glad that Jason Mewes has cleaned up and is healthy now...but he doesn't even look like the same person, drugs have taken a visible toll on that man). This movie is a lot more sappy and maudlin than his earlier works but, again, he's kind of earned that. He has "matured" and faced death since his early days. He hasn't exactly gotten more accomplished as a filmmaker, but he is so earnest about sharing the things he's come to value in life (mainly family and children) with his fan base that you can't really hate on it. It's a bit sappy, but it's also undeniably sweet. Him putting his daughter at the center of the film and giving her the majority of the screen time is also sweet (and, hey, she's a decent actress). I also respect the meta nature of this enterprise. It's not incredibly successful but, really, I kind of just admire the effort.

If he were a better filmmaker, a more subtle writer and director, he might have been able to integrate these thoughts and feelings without kind of bringing the film to a screeching halt. But he's not Scorsese, he's Kevin Smith and that shaggy, sweet, filthy energy is his brand and his charm. He has a distinctive voice, to be sure, and if you've ever enjoyed a Kevin Smith film then you know that voice and are sure to surrender to the charms of "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot". I wish it were funnier, for sure, and sharper, but it's...nice. Sometimes "nice" is enough. I definitely liked it more than "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" though, honestly, I'd probably like "Strike Back" a lot more now than I used to. Nostalgia is a hell of a drug, sometimes.

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