Jay and Silent Bob

Last night I watched — for the second time this week — Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019), which is the latest episode of a saga polymath auteur Kevin Smith has been telling since 1994 with his first film, Clerks. The arc of that tale contains one of my very favorite movies, Dogma (1999), wherein we learn that God looks exactly like Alanis Morissette.

If you’ve never heard of Jay and (his “hetero life-mate”) Silent Bob, you’ve missed a minor cultural phenomenon. Clerks is a cinematic landmark on par with Reservoir Dogs, and is preserved in the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” In my book, it’s all three.

I’ve been waiting well over a decade to see these guys again!

Comparing Clerks to Reservoir Dogs (1992) works on many levels. Both are the feature-length debuts of notable modern auteur filmmakers. Both are considered cinematic landmarks. Both involve subject matter some find hard to take (although for quite different reasons in this case).

The irony, perhaps, is that, while Reservoir Dogs is arguably the lesser landmark, Tarantino went on to become (at least in my opinion) a far more versatile storyteller. Pulp Fiction (1994) and Jackie Brown (1997), to me, are cinematic masterpieces, and I’ve loved every film he’s done since.

As much as I cherish Jay and Silent Bob, for me Smith has been something of a one-trick pony. Worse, he’s done a couple, Jersey Girl (2004) and Cop Out (2010), I thought were real stinkers. (Jersey Girl was at least watchable. I turned off Cop Out after 15 minutes; it was wretched.)

However I have not seen his horror films, Red State (2011), Tusk (2014), and Yoga Hosers (2016), so I can’t speak to which side of the line they’d be for me. I have a sneaking suspicion I’d like them.

(To be honest, after Cop Out I kinda gave up on him and didn’t even know about the horror films. Smith is also huge in the comics world, and I left that world quite some time ago.)

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When I watched it earlier this week I laughed my ass off, but I was also drinking beer, which makes me happy on its own. I wanted to watch it again to see if I thought it was as funny without the beer.

Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) in court

I laughed my ass off again. It’s rich enough and textured enough to be funny even knowing what’s coming. In some cases, especially knowing what’s coming.

(My experience is that any rich story bears a second round with awareness of where the story goes. I find there is much to see in the storyteller’s construction of the path, but it’s only visible — at least to me — if one knows the whole structure.)

However, there is a big double caveat.

Firstly, the movie won’t work well (or possibly at all) if you don’t know the saga. The story leans heavily on callbacks to previous films. If you’ve never seen Dogma, for instance, the scene with Matt Damon will make no sense.

Secondly, this is crude adolescent stoner humor, albeit informed by an educated, sensitive, brilliant mind. (Casting Alanis Morissette as God in Dogma? I think that’s genius, especially since she never utters a word. (Her voice, however, is a whole other matter.))

God (Alanis Morissette in Dogma)

So this is definitely an insider film, is my point.

But, if you love independent cinema, and don’t know Jay and Silent Bob, you might want to check it out:

  1. Clerks (1994)
  2. Mallrats (1995)
  3. Chasing Amy (1997)
  4. Dogma (1999)
  5. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)
  6. Clerks II (2006)
  7. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019)

(Clerks is must see. Many people don’t think much of Mallrats, but I don’t think it’s that bad. Clerks II is just okay, but Chasing Amy and Dogma are excellent.)

§

This latest episode is absolutely true to its name: It’s a deliberate and careful reboot of the 2001 film, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

In that film, Jay and Silent Bob learn Hollywood is making a movie based on a comic book two local friends, Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee), created based on Jay and Silent Bob.

Silent Bob, Bluntman & Chronic comic, and Jay

You see, Jay and Silent Bob are weed dealers, and the comic based on them has (for lack of a better term) “superheroes” named Bluntman and Chronic. (If you don’t get those names, these movies may not be for you.)

Outraged that Hollywood might besmirch their names, the pair set off from New Jersey (where these films are set) to Hollywood to stop the production of the movie. Or, failing that, get in on the profits.

So the movie is essentially a road-trip movie with a destination payoff.

At that point Smith had a lot of leverage, due to Clerks and Chasing Amy, and  Strikes Back is, to say the least, star-studded (just check out the cast list on the Wiki page).

§

In the reboot, after getting in trouble with the law, they sign away their names and learn Hollywood is do a remake of the Bluntman and Chronic movie.

Once again they set off to Hollywood to put a stop to it (outraged that their very names have been taken from them). Worse, they find out the film is being made by that Kevin Smith guy, who they hate ever since Cop Out (funny, me, too, kinda). Smith’s other popular failure, Jersey Girl, also gets dissed a lot in this film.

Silent Bob has technology to help him express himself now (the character never speaks, except in one, typically key, scene of each film).

Not in, but after Clerks, there has been a growing use of meta in Smith’s approach, and he’s been known to break the fourth wall, having actors look directly into the camera to make a point.

There is an info-dump meta-scene between the duo and Jason Lee (a regular supporting actor in the saga) where the latter explains the difference between a sequel (which Hollywood doesn’t make anymore), a reboot (not great), and a remake (even worse).

“A reboot is when Hollywood wants to make a lot of money without the hassle of creating a new movie, so they take an old movie and change just enough to make you pay for the same shit all over again. They take a flick you loved and add youth and diversity to it.”

He challenges Jay and Silent Bob to name the movie where a robot has secret plans that could help the good guys and hurt the bad guys and their leader who wears a black mask.

The pair immediately know the answer: Star Wars, of course. Nope, The Force Awakens. The reboot.

On the other hand:

“A remake is like a reboot when the studio doesn’t care how the audience feels about the original movie, so they just keep the title, fuck up everything else, and ruin both flicks in the process.”

That sounds about right to me.

Jay asks: “After all these years, what kinda broken fucks still wanna watch this Jay and Silent Bob bullshit anyway?” And then they all turn to the camera…

The film, of course, is explicitly titled Reboot, and Smith definitely added youth and diversity to it — his daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, appears as Millennium Faulken, and her gal pals include black actress Treshelle Edmond as Soppy Pia, who is deaf, Aparna Brielle as Jihad, a Muslim, and Alice Wen as Shan Yu, from China (although there is more than meets the eye).

Speaking of meta, Millennium and Jihad have a conversation at one point where they wonder if their conversation would pass the Bechdel test.

§

The film opens by echoing the beginning of Clerks where Dante (Brian O’Halloran) arrives to open the Quick Stop convenience store that was the center Clerks revolved around. The same store Jay and Silent Bob hung out in front of selling weed.

Suddenly, instantly, cops and SWAT are everywhere. Next to the Quick Stop is a new shop, the Cock Smoker (Cumming Soon! says the sign). The cops are focused on that store demanding Jay and Silent Bob exit with their hands up. Which they do, and are hauled off.

The next day in court, a lawyer shows up, gets them to sign a contract giving away the rights to their own names, but also gets them freed claiming they were actors involved in a studio promotional stunt (promoting the upcoming film, the remake of the old Bluntman and Chronic film).

This is the seed that starts them off to Hollywood to stop that horrible filmmaker Kevin Smith from doing the remake. (A crucial scene for the movie will be filmed at the Chronic Con convention in Hollywood — they plan to interfere.)

Along the way, Jay discovers a daughter (Millennium) he didn’t know about, a consequence of the original trip to Hollywood. (They got mixed up with a gang of four female jewel thieves. One of them fell for Jay.)

§

I especially loved Matt Damon reprising his angel Loki role. It’s just a short scene where he explains what God did to him as a consequence of the events in Dogma.

Apparently She let him live, but dumped him in the Mediterranean Sea where he was found by fishermen. He says, “You could say I was born again.” A bit later he refers to his “born identity.” (I don’t have to explain that, do I?)

§

The scene with Holden (Ben Affleck) and Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) is sweet. It’s late in the film, and I was starting to wonder if Smith would bring Affleck back.

It turns out Holden donated sperm to Alyssa and her wife to create a child they all share. That child is played by Jason Mewes’ daughter.

Justice, Jay’s old flame, and mother of the daughter he didn’t know about, is married to Reggie Faulken (Rosario Dawson, who appeared as a different character in Clerks II).

Which reflects what I mean about low-brow humor informed by sensitivity. You can’t fault Smith much on inclusion of oft excluded character types.

§

One last thing to watch for: In the Mooby’s scene, the manager who shoves Bob into the ladies restroom for a quickie is Smith’s wife, Jennifer Schwalbach, who has appeared in many of Smith’s films.

Treshelle Edmond (Soapy), Millennium (Harley Quinn Smith), Jihad (Aparna Brielle), and Shan Yu (Alice Wen), a youthful diverse gang of four.

As with Strikes Back, this one is also seriously star-studded. Besides those already mentioned: Chris Hemsworth, Craig Robinson, Kate Micucci, Diedrich Bader, Method Man, Redman, Melissa Benoist, Val Kilmer, Tommy Chong, Fred Armisen, Molly Shannon, and a few others, all have small roles.

Be sure to watch the credits for the cookie with Stan Lee in a posthumous performance based on footage Smith took at a Comic con.

§

The movie ends where it began, outside the Quick Stop (with Dante once again arriving to open up).

The final dialog includes two important pieces of wisdom. One of them ties back to my previous post: “Failure is success training.”

The other is the fundamental tenant of comedy: “Fuck’m if they can’t take a joke.” (I have a cousin who always wanted that as a tee-shirt.)

“The dishes are done, man!”

Stay rebooted, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

6 responses to “Jay and Silent Bob

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Even fans might want to watch the other films unless they have good memories. There are a lot of callbacks to the previous films.

    I wish I had time to watch the old ones again just so I could watch the new one again and not miss anything. Maybe someday when I’m retired…

    Oh, wait. 😀

    [This is post #996 here. Four more to one-thousand!]

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Ha! If I’d been a little quicker on the draw, this would have posted at 4:20. 😀

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Have to admit I’ve totally missed the boat on these movies. In fact, the only ones I’d even heard of were Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I saw bits and pieces off Dogma decades ago, but it didn’t work for me back then, although it might now. But I’m wondering if it’s worth the effort to go through all those movies at this point.

    Tarantino, on the other hand, I’m very familiar with. (Although I haven’t seen his latest yet.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Nor have I, but I’m sure I’ll like it (if not love it). Tarantino is one of very few directors for which I love everything they’ve done. (Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers are two others.) Smith, on the other hand, for me mainly hits on the Jay and Silent Bob films. (I do need to check out his horror films.)

      Dogma is probably the least Jay and Silent Bob-ish of the lot, since they’re side characters rather than the center. It’s also the most supernatural of Smith’s films, since God and angels are real. (In Mallrats, Silent Bob demonstrates he has the power of the force, though, so Smith is willing to bend reality.)

      Chasing Amy, which centers on Affleck and Adams, also has Jay and Silent Bob as side characters, is an excellent film and worth seeing.

      It might be worth starting with Dogma and seeing what you think. If you like it, try Chasing Amy.

      Strikes Back is kind of a prerequisite for Reboot, which might work with only Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Strikes Back. You will miss callbacks to the other films, of course.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Fans of the Jay and Silent Bob films know about Kevin Smith’s fictional fast food restaurant, Mooby’s. (It’s a bit like Tarantino’s Red Apple cigarettes — a fictional brand for the films.)

    Well Smith has helped open a “pop up” actual Mooby’s in Los Angeles, although per Smith’s post heart attack view on health, it’s a plant-based vegan restaurant.

    As the linked article says:

    The fictitious restaurant was brought to life in April. It launched online for takeout during peak COVID quarantine. And if the recent interest is an indicator of how well the chain might do if it expanded beyond the pop-up, Smith’s got a billion-dollar idea on his hands: demand for the meals was so high that it crashed the Postmates delivery app. Twice. There were more than 3,000 orders on the first day.

    Sounds awesome. For a moment I almost wished I still lived in LA.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Just saw this article: Kevin Smith Celebrates Jay & Silent Bob Co-Star Jason Mewes’ 10 Years of Sobriety.

    Ten years goes back to only 2010, and all the Jay and Silent Bob movies, except the most recent, predate that. I can’t recall if it was about Dogma or Strike Back that I read Smith had concerns about whether Mewes would be able to perform is part. The article implied it had always been something of a concern.

    But Kevin Smith had a heart attack, nearly died, and seriously changed his life (lost, like, half his weight and went vegan), and it appears Mewes has gotten clear of his past as well. I mentioned his daughter appears in the scene with Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams — she’s clearly less than 10, so she’s a a part of Mewes’ new life.

    So Congrats to Jason Mewes! Way to go Jay!!

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