It was only a month ago I was complaining about "America's Sweethearts" and how smugly "inside" Hollywood it was. Now here comes "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (IMDb listing), the latest film from the splendidly talented writer/director/actor Kevin Smith. It also marks the final screen journey of our favorite drug dealing duo. Smith has been quoted back and forth saying that this film was made for the fans that have stuck with him through all the years. Now having seen it, the man wasn't kidding. If the characters of Brodie Bruce, Holden McNeil, or Banky Edwards mean nothing to you, or if you find the thought of chocolate covered pretzels appealing, then I wouldn't recommend another adventure with these Quik Stop regulars. For the fanboys (myself included), "Strike Back" is a barnstorming comedy riot that sends off these characters in the absolute best way imaginable.
Life is good for Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). Business is up, they've thwarted a game show, encouraged a sad sack to get over his relationship with a lesbian, and even helped prevent two angels from reentering heaven, thus negating all existence. Kicking back at the Quik Stop in Red Bank, New Jersey, the twosome learn that Miramax is starting production on a "Bluntman And Chronic" feature film, based on the comic book molded after the pair. Jay and Silent Bob, with the help of friend Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck), venture on to the Internet to learn more about the picture, but discover on webboards that anonymous film geeks have been more interested in slanderous commentary about the partners for selling out to a big studio.
Unaware of the superficial nature of Internet gossip, Jay and Silent Bob take the attacks personally and decide to travel to Hollywood to stop production on the movie. Chased by a devoted animal ranger (Will Ferrell), the media, a team of jewel thieves (Ali Larter, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, and Eliza Dushku), love (Shannon Elizabeth), a host of celebrity cameos, and an adorable orangutan named Suzanne, Jay and Silent Bob cross the country in an attempt to salvage what little dignity they have left.
An easier way to sum up "Strike Back" would be to call it "The Muppet Movie" for pot smoking, Playstation playing, comic book loving, E! watching, Ain't It Cool surfing, twenty-something single men.
Having taken a sharp turn into more high minded material (with 1999's "Dogma," still his best film), Kevin Smith heads right back to the madcap, self-referential craziness that immediately brings back memories of his misunderstood disaster "Mallrats." This time, not content with simply rehashing components for another "Clerks" retread, Smith takes this opportunity to lace the broad comedy with some much needed venom in the direction of Internet rumor sites, Miramax, and Smith's favorite subject, his own self-proclaimed "dick and fart joke" laden screenplays.
Artistically, "Strike Back" is a giant step backwards for a filmmaker that took on Catholic ideology the last time out. The advantage of this new film is that Smith is fully aware of his less than respectable material and proceeds jubilantly into the smutty comic realm that has been so kind to him before. Working with the same comic rhythms as "Mallrats," yet finding resoundingly more worthy targets to blast, "Strike Back" ends up being nonstop laughs from start to finish.
Taking over as the main players in the story, I was a little nervous that these normally supporting characters couldn't handle the jump to the front. Featured prominently in "Dogma," Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith now have to carry almost every second of screen time in "Strike Back." Fearing disaster, Mewes and Smith step up proudly as the headliners. Never becoming grating or overextended, the duo easily guides "Strike Back" to comic delights. Mewes especially, as he was once the mumbling fool of "Clerks," now has cleaned up his pronunciation and assumed leading man status with supremacy. Always a love him/hate him actor, Mewes nevertheless provides the film with almost all of its laughs. His interplay with Smith is priceless, and the duo's journey from Red Bank to Hollywood is littered with all those catchphrases ("Snoogans") and philosophies that we've come to expect from these foul-mouthed trouble makers.
To help guide Jay and Silent Bob to Hollywood are a horde of cameos that should please both fan and non-fan alike. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Chris Rock, Jon Stewart, Carrie Fisher, Shannon Doherty, Mark Hamill, Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson (from "Clerks"), Wes Craven, Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek, George Carlin, Gus Van Sant, Joey Lauren Adams, and kickin' it Reynolds-style, the outstanding Jason Lee. The best of the cameo appearances is easily Affleck and Damon. Portraying themselves on a Miramax blockbuster sequel set, the dream team reunites again to ridicule each other over recent career choices and personal indiscretions. The scene (the film's best) perfectly sums up the tone of the picture as both satire and insider Hollywood winking. Damon and Affleck deserve praise for hanging themselves out to dry like this, and Smith deliciously proves with this minor wrist-slapping that no subject is too taboo for his laser-precise aim.
The greatest gift the film gives to the audience is in providing the very first satire of the Internet gossip culture. A culture that has gone far too long untouched by mockery. Kevin Smith brings his years overseeing his own Web site (viewaskew.com) and enduring endless hearsay and outright lies to the screenplay with a vengeance. The movie does poke fun at itself, some studio targets, even some other directors. Yet Smith saves the best lines and situations for revenge on the 12 year-olds who every day post anonymous rumors and toxin on movie gossip sites without any fear of retaliation. "Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back" is a phenomenal valentine (and swan song) to this spirited pair, but it works even better as a warning shot to wannabe Hollywood players everywhere.
Filmfodder Grade: A+