Across The View Askewniverse: Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) Review
There’s a lot to love about zany caper movie “Jay And Silent Bob Stike Back” and not just because it pays off a joke from the very last scene of “Mallrats”. Something of a cinematic ‘greatest hits’ album, it sees Smith at his most Puckish and playful, revisiting and lampooning not just his own back catalogue but taking a satirical swipe at the changing face of Hollywood movie production, the rise of the internet commentariat and, of course, his critics. It’s a movie made for the fans and about the fans – or at least a very specific subset of movie fans.
When a movie based on the “Bluntman and Chronic” comic – based on real-life stoners Jay and Silent Bob – is announced to general derision on the internet chat forums, Jay and Silent Bob vow to wreck the movie to save their reputations, especially when they won’t see any cash from the production.
Part road movie, part madcap caper and all self-referential in-jokes and celebrity cameos, such is the innate likeability of Jay and Silent Bob that they largely manage to overcome the usual drag factor of supporting characters taking centre stage. It helps that Smith cunningly fashions his script about them but not necessarily around them so they bumble from mishap to mishap, they slot in as the supporting characters to whatever silliness is unfolding on screen. In their quest to get themselves to Hollywood, they misinterpret the rules of the road, hitch a ride from a very Scooby doobie gang and find themselves on America’s Most Wanted as the heads of America’s most provocatively named terrorist organisation.
In many ways, it’s Smith’s most liberated script to date and you can tell he’s writing to have fun and that he wants you to join in. It’s a historical irony, then, that the production was troubled by Jason Mewes’ ongoing struggles with substance abuse and addiction and a testament to Smith’s direction and editing skill that not once is there any sign of the offscreen strife in the onscreen hijinks.
By its nature slightly uneven and episodic, what it lacks in narrative finesse it more than makes up for in sheer hilarity. It’s one of Smith’s most laugh-out-loud screenplays, with both the character work and high concept gags coming thick and fast. The dialogue zings like profane poetry and the willingness of the great and the good to appear both as characters and as themselves (Gus Van Sant turns up as the director of “Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season”) means there’s always a surprise around the corner. Of course, it’s every bit as vulgar, crass and puerile as you’d expect (and want) but that just adds to the fun of seeing the likes of Carrie Fisher, Chris Rock, Will Ferrell, Jon Stewart, James Van Der Beek, and Mark Hamill (who, with a scene-stealing cameo on the set of “Bluntman & Chronic”, makes his first appearance in a film with Carrie Fisher since 1983, although sadly they share no scenes together) larking about delivering dick and fart jokes. I mean, honestly, who among us wouldn’t write ourselves a scene in a movie where we get to fight a lightsabre duel against Mark Hamill?
If you were feeling cruel, you could say it feels a little dated but to me, that’s one of its virtues because it’s so perfectly of its time. It absolutely captures the beginnings of internet culture and accurately predicts the corrosive effect fan culture will have on movie production in the years to come. It also confirms Jay and Silent Bob as more than just one note stoner characters and elevates them into the pantheon of great cinematic double acts, a millennial Cheech and Chong with a pop culture overcoat.
Probably the one that’s the most fun to watch in a crowded theatre with like-minded fans, it’s smart and silly and smart enough not to worry about being too silly. Although it was intended to be the final chapter of the View Askewniverse (as evidenced by Alanis Morisette’s post-credits reprise as God, literally closing the book), that thankfully proved not to be the case although it’s safe to say the fourth wall would never be structurally sound again.