Monday 2 December 2019

Jay & Silent Bob Reboot reviewed... AND! Circle-Clerks: Kevin Smith says Clerks 3 could be ‘last ever’ View Askewniverse movie

Jay & Silent Bob Reboot: Review

On Friday, Kevin Smith - and probably also on every other stop on his Q&A tour to launch his new movie Jay & Silent Bob Reboot - announced that Clerks 3 is definitely in the making and will centre on an existential crisis for foul-mouthed video store clerk Randall. 

I went to see the movie, followed by a Q&A with the director himself, at Genesis Cinema, East London. In short, the plot kicks off using the lovable stupidity of titular stoner Jay as an expositional device to really hammer home what a ‘reboot’ really is in Hollywood terms. In other words, someone smarter than Jay explains to Jay what one is, in order to say, humorously, in no uncertain terms, what we’re all thinking and nobody’s saying:

Essentially, a reboot is a movie using all the same characters and all the same intellectual property, but done differently - so the studio can take your money twice. I’ve never disagreed with that estimation personally. Occasionally I think it’s great to retell a story for a new generation. If the Robocop reboot hadn’t been so poor, maybe it would’ve been a cool idea. But Robocop is still a great film. So watch that instead. 

But, Jay & Silent Bob Reboot: don’t stress. It’s not really a reboot. I guess it is in so far as you learn a little of the origin story, but not a lot. It’s basically a throw everything at the screen from much loved and less loved View Askew films alike, there’s heavy references to everything from Clerks to Cop Out - if that really counts as a View Askew. There is a story of sorts, but, as Smith said in the Q&A that followed, the story itself takes the piss out of the concept of reboots. 

 I’m glad no one asked any sappy questions about Smith being in England the day after Thanksgiving, which would no doubt have set off even more sentiment and homely platitudes from the amiable director. Not that there isn’t a place for sappiness amid the dick and fart (and increasingly frequently, cum) jokes in Kevin Smith’s movies, there always has been a beating heart, of longing, of attachment to family and close friends.

No, I’m glad no one asked any questions about being apart from family because I’d already managed to do some blubbing earlier on to the movie. During a Kevin Smith Jay & Silent Bob movie. I cried. A tiny bit, but still enough to look a pussy in a London movie theatre. That is to say, if anything at all has been added to the Jay & Silent Bob cannon, it’s genuine emotion and it works surprisingly well. 

Sometimes it really is just funny to hear someone say “lubricant” in a comedy accent

Without wanting to give away any ‘plot’ details, the issue of growing up suddenly becomes real even for Jay & Silent Bob, perhaps the most cartoonish of all the live action duos that Smith said he wanted to follow in popular culture in the tradition of: Cheech & Chong, Bill & Ted. 

Indeed the humour is, ‘like… sooooo inane’ at times, and some of the puns excruciating, but for long time fans that’s half the fun. That’s also half the fun of more recent, ‘loveable idiots with heart’ comedies like Workaholics as well, so perhaps there’ll always be a place for humour that at times doesn’t even attempt to be clever. Sometimes it really is just funny to hear some say “lubricant” in a French accent.

Meanwhile, the monologues that sometimes seem to hold up time in Kevin Smith movies, where the director essentially channels himself to speak directly to the audience through a character (in the case of Chasing Amy, his own character, Silent Bob), can go either way. Personally I find Ben Affleck’s eight minutes or so in this one to be a bit of a weak link, but then you get shots of Jason Mewes’ real-life daughter looking adorable and all is well again. 

I always thought the monologues were the clumsiest part of Smith’s film-making, but also in many ways the most affecting, especially when we watched those early movies in our teenage years and Stan Lee (I was a rare teenager in the UK in the 1990s to know who that even was at the time) for example, gave us lessons on the ways of the heart. That said, at other times, the monologues and self-help homilies can be a bit wearing and excruciating, albeit well-meaning and often actually fairly central to the plot as well.

Bluntman & Chronic: The 'emotional range years'

In the same way that the sentimental parts worked for me because I felt like I already knew the characters and was willing to indulge, I wonder if much of this movie would be funny at all to someone that had never seen the View Askew movies. But hey, if you’re reading all of this, that doesn’t apply to you and therefore, you will love it. The amping up of the sentiment makes it work well as a movie, but it remains to be seen if it will live up to the same repeated, VHS-wearing out numbers of viewings as Clerks or Mallrats by the fans. 

I feel like I laughed often enough that I probably will make repeat viewings of it. While the relatively slow passages that deal with real emotions and grown-up stuff might take the pace out of the jokes a little, Jason Mewes’ acting is actually quite understated when it comes to the more reflective stuff, which really works. The script goes for some cheap laughs, but it doesn’t go for the kind of cheap laughs that undermine the serious stuff. 

Again, I can’t say much more without spoiling too much - not that it’s a plot you go to watch a Kevin Smith movie for - but it’s as if the audience tacitly understands that Jay wouldn’t have the vocabulary to express himself and his range of expression. Given what we know of his brash, law-baiting personality in almost every other circumstance and situation until now, Jason Mewes’ performance works a treat.

Holy crap, time is passing - like it's supposed to

So, the first movie review on a blog called Crybaby Deathmatch, was a comic book style movie that made me cry! It was embarrassing as hell. It was only a little bit, a tiny bit I swear, didn’t need a tissue or anything… But I was very conscious of the fact that shit, Kevin Smith’s like 50, I’m nearly 40. Watching the movie brought back so many memories of the few friends I have still that I shared the View Askewniverse with all those years ago and ever since, and many many friends that came and went. Living in London, people drift away easily. Question is, did all those lingering shots and that sad music, those monologues that, when they do work, kinda take you somewhere and hit you in the heart, did they just work in context because I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith, or was this actually a film buried within a movie?* 

So, the impulse purchase of a ticket to numb my ageing ass - I’ve got a prolapsed disc in my back folks, that’s how ‘hip’ I am (geddit?) - for four hours in the company of a director whose movies I've loved and lived with, much like close friends (some but not all of them, let’s be honest. To friends and Kevin Smith movies, that applies) and a couple of hundred loving fans was a privelege. I’m not sure all of that is going to be enough to lure in a whole new generation, especially as, like with Jim Carey, you might imagine your kids would ask why that old man is acting so funny when they see the (slightly) wrinkled faces of our heroes. 

Likewise, the many supporting characters, caricatures and Afflecks, Damons, and Shannon Elizabeth’s of this self-referential but never self-reverential movie have aged and haven’t we all, but part of you is always going to root for Jay & Silent Bob and there’s just enough, just enough character development, to have taken you along a ride that, while it obviously is a reboot after all, never felt like time wasted. 

Go see the movie and the Q&A too. And please leave comments if you've got views askew to share.

Disclaimer: I wasn't paid for this, didn't get a free ticket. Wouldn't mind if I did in future though!

Coley - December 2019, London. 

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