Snootch to the nootch. Mark Batalla of PixelDrip Gallery is back to examine the fifth entry in theView Askewniverse film series, and asks us to ponder how Kevin Smith’s style of humor has spread into the mainstream over the last ten years. Zoinks, yo.
We’re currently at an interesting section in Kevin Smith’s career because he claims that he’s retiring from directing movies once he completes Hit Somebody. Just a decade prior, he said he would no longer be making any more movies that take place within his View Askew continuity after completing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Then he made Clerks II five years later. So what was it about this movie that kept it from becoming final capstone to all of Kevin Smith’s films up to that point?
The View Askewniverse was composed of a series of films that took place primarily in New Jersey. The through line between all the main characters was that they interacted with the pot dealing duo of Jay and Silent Bob. After four films, with ever increasing exposure in each successive entry, it was finally time for Jay and Silent Bob to star in their own movie.
There’s a direct correlation between how surreal and fantastic the View Askew films get with amount of screen time that Jay and Silent Bob have. Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy were pretty standard slice-of-life stories. Dogma had fallen angels fighting demons. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back tops that by throwing realism out the window in favor of a metatextual storyline filled with tangents.
You can usually tell when movies are made as an excuse for the cast and crew to get paid while having fun. There’s Ocean’s Twelve, Beerfest, and of course, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The plot revolves around Jay and Silent Bob taking a road trip from New Jersey to Hollywood to stop a movie based on their characters from being made. The premise allows for some extraordinary situations as the stoner duo come across the Scooby-Doo gang, re-enact Planet of the Apes, have a lightsaber fight with Mark Hamill, and dance with Morris Day & the Time.
Is It Better Or Worse Than I Remember?
It’s worse for a couple reasons. One is that I’ve seen this movie and quoted lines too many times throughout college. My roommates and I would constantly sing Jay’s “Fuck” rap or recite his Clit Commander speech. Even though I still appreciate the View Askewniverse, I also don’t have the same passion for it as I did ten years ago. The type of humor found throughout the film is just so widespread now in the form of Family Guy, South Park, and Adult Swim, that it just doesn’t feel as fresh.
And of course, there are Kevin Smith’s highly specific references to geek/pop culture. Quentin Tarantino does the same thing, but at least he doesn’t let that affect the overall quality of his writing. You can look at this movie as Smith’s commentary on his experience with the film industry, with plenty of jabs coming at the expense of Miramax, but that can easily be drowned out by the number of times that the dialogue attempts come up with new quotable phrases, like “Boo boo kitty fuck.”
On a superficial level, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back works as the final View Askewniverse film simply because it brings together many of the dangling plotlines from the other titles. With the exception of Jeremy London, Claire Forlani, Michael Rooker, Ethan Suplee, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayek, and Alan Rickman, all the main actors that appeared in View Askew films make an appearance. Even Alanis Morissette reprises her role as God, closing out the pages of the View Askew book after the end credits.
However, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is also almost completely fan service. I’m a little bit ashamed of the fact that I can recognize all the cameos and nods to the audience. With the sheer number of callbacks to previous movies, I feel a fresh viewer with no prior exposure to any of the View Askew films will immediately notice the lack of emotional depth or even a point to making a full feature film about Jay and Silent Bob. And let’s get real. Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes aren’t great at acting outside the range of what we normally expect from the duo. I can see why Kevin Smith chose to end things full circle by making Clerks II instead. So even though he says he’s retiring from directing, I have a feeling he’ll jump back into it at some point if Hit Somebody doesn’t live up to expectations.
Free Floating Thoughts
My list of View Askewniverse movies from most favorite to least favorite would be Mallrats, Clerks, Clerks II, Chasing Amy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Dogma.
It’s funny how Kevin Smith’s films are always borderline NC-17 simply because of the foul language.
Critics will complain about the toilet humor and homophobic jokes found throughout the film, but they also forget the context of Jay and Silent Bob being the protagonists. It’s inherent to their characters since their first appearance in Clerks.
Oh man, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, and Ali Larter all in one place. Annnnnnd they’ve got company. I understand that directors often like to cast their spouses in their work. I just feel that Jennifer Schwalbach was miscast as one of the female diamond robbers. You can’t have her be in the same presence as those three actresses. Schwalbach’s charisma and body type simply doesn’t match theirs and she simply sticks out during their scenes.
The throwaway joke of Jay and Silent Bob finding an orangutan named Suzanne at the end of Mallrats is expanded on in this movie as well as in the Chasing Dogma comic.
Will Ferrell, as Federal Wildlife Marshal Willenholly, at this point in his career was on the brim of becoming a mainstream name. His next two movies would be Zoolander and Old School.
That moment between Will Ferrell and Jason Lee ends with the two actors cracking up and breaking character. Was that take intentionally left in there?
My absolute favorite part of this movie is when Jay and Silent Bob track down the anonymous Internet posters and beat the crap out of them. I mean honestly, who hasn’t wanted to do that?
Fun fact: I worked at the Arclight Cinemas at the same time as Dwight Ewell, the actor portraying Hooper X.
Oh yeah, this is the movie that introduced Afroman and his single, “Because I Got High.”