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Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 November 2006

Image “Clerks,” “Mallrats,” “Chasing Amy” and “Dogma” all featured appearances by Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith)-- two crude, drug-dealing layabouts.

“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” takes these two peripheral characters and makes them the central characters in their own film. Jay and Silent Bob discover that the comic book, “Bluntman and Chronic” (which is based on them) is being made into a big budget Hollywood movie without their permission, so the duo head off on a road trip Tinseltown to either shut down the production or get their fare share of the pie…

Kevin Smith’s previous films mostly used these two characters sparingly and to good effect. When they’ve been featured in brief bits of business their overwhelming crudity, bald-faced immaturity, appalling sexist diatribes and grating catchphrases tend to elevate the surrounding material. While the rest of the films where they appear all have liberal doses of foul-mouthed crudity and bathroom humor, there’s a cleverness, rough-hewn wit and a genuine charm overriding the them--“Mallrats” excluded. Unfortunately, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” is a Kevin Smith film without the intelligence or heart to balance the bathroom humor.

Jay is simply too obnoxious and in-your-face a presence for an audience to tolerate for an entire feature. His character and persona are so immature, annoying, puerile, and charmless that he can’t possibly carry a film. One tires of Mewes’s face; his constant leering expressions and limited acting sorely test the patience and ultimately squanders the audience’s good will. Scenes without him are like a breath of fresh air, and one becomes nearly claustrophobic waiting for such a scene. Instead, your attention ends up latching onto the supporting characters who are at least have a likeable on-screen presence and have dialogue that is above junior high school-level sexist piggery. Kevin Smith (as Silent Bob) is made more appealing simply by his silence in contrast to the endless grating chatter that Jay subjects us to. He’s an amusing and likeable character, and makes a nice foil to Jay and moments where he chooses to speak are funny and eloquent.

Shannon Elizabeth (as Justice) is an adorable presence and adds a playful charm to her scenes, increasing our tolerance for Jay and Silent Bob, by virtue of her character’s believable enthusiasm. If she finds Jay charming or finds appeal in him, then one assumes there must be something there…

While the experience of watching the film is highly grating at times, the movie is jammed to the gills with gags. While the jokes are strictly hit or miss, director/writer Smith has targeted so many aspects of movies and American culture, that many of them do find their mark and there are a few uproarious moments. There’s a funny “Charlie’s Angels” movie parody sequence and a great, brilliantly timed fart gag along the way, but most of the real sharp gags are saved for the duo’s arrival in Hollywood.

There’s a mountain of inside-jokes and riffs on Miramax, star personas, and moviemaking in general that are dead-on and pretty hysterical. Making the barbs even funnier and more enjoyable are the large cluster of big names who appear, riffing themselves. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek et al. should be applauded for being game enough and unpretentious enough to appear herein.

Kevin Smith’s films are all referred to via in-jokes throughout the film. The continuity of all these films will most certainly stymie casual viewers as Affleck and Lee play multiple characters—Affleck plays himself and his “Chasing Amy” character, while Lee plays his character from “Mallrats” and “Chasing Amy.” Characters from Smith’s other films also appear in bits throughout and all pile-up in the end when the film takes its level of hyper-self-reflexivity perhaps a bit too far.

When this ran in theaters, the sub-three year old level of wit was aimed so low, (particularly early on) that I nearly walked out, which is an extreme rarity for me. On repeated viewing and on a home-theater-sized screen, though, its much less offensive. Anyone without a touch of immaturity in them (and most women) will probably flee for the hills long before the credits roll, though.

The Blu-ray transfer is sharp and clean with bright and accurate colors. Sequences like the fight with (groan) Cocknocker (Mark Hamill) at the finale and the “Scooby-Doo” parody sequence are garish and vivid. The majority of the film isn’t as saturated or as colorful, but it’s a faithful and satisfying representation of the original theatrical look. The photography has an occasional grainy shot, particularly in night scenes (such as the establishing shot of the Provasik lab). The Blu-ray disc is clearly a step up from the standard definition DVD. Facial close-ups are pleasingly sharp and as a result, scenes that predominantly feature ‘talking heads’ are made more dramatically engaging (or grating, depending on the charisma and appeal of the actor on display). That said, the Blu-ray doesn’t quite have the visual snap and jump in quality compared to standard definition DVD that I’ve come to expect from the HD DVD titles that I’ve reviewed thus far. It’s a sharper and more detailed representation, but areas of the screen and imagery are not always razor sharp and your sense of the transfer replicating the camerawork as far as focus and detail isn’t quite replicated.

The 5.1 sound (through uncompressed PCM) is satisfying and free from distortion. It’s a slick, polished track and is presented cleanly with frequent use of directional effects. When the trucker picks up the hitchhiker (George Carlin) and drives off, the trucker blowing his horn is effectively steered around the sound field to match its location on and off-screen). The music score is also given strong orchestral presence and the opening title music and effects perfectly mimic the opening cards as they appear and “whoosh” through and over your head—the sound field matches the imagery as the sound also shifts to the rears.

Extras are nearly non-existent. Apart from the opening trailer build and a worthless option to view three selected clips from the film (I imagine its for those who have never heard of “Scene Selection” menus), the only extra is a commentary track. On the track, Kevin Smith does most of the talking and as usual he’s a clever, amusing narrator. His self-deprecating humor and his on-the-nose observations on the film are disarming and refreshingly free of pretension. Actor Jason Mewes’s anecdotes are a bit incoherent. Producer/editor Scott Mosier supports Smith with occasional scene-setting production details.

A big mistake on Miramax’s part is to present this disc in a nearly barebones fashion. Blu-ray Disc is too new and softly penetrated a format for studios to start mimicking the release patterns of the previously available standard definition DVDs. Instead of porting over the voluminous extras of the “collector’s series” standard definition DVD and making this Blu-ray release definitive, Miramax has clearly left the door open to start a pattern of double-dipping. While this has worked for standard DVD, it can not sustain on Blu-ray or HD DVD in these early days. Consumers are being pitched a new high quality product, visually and aurally, but at higher prices. With a standard def DVD of the same film being sold one shelf over for $15 less, consumers need a solid reason beyond picture quality to upgrade. Warners has clued into this and its HD DVD and Blu-ray titles have been replicating the two-disc, extras-filled releases, instead of the slimmer single-disc issues. Blu-ray studios have got to get on-board with this paradigm. The decision to eliminate the extras for this release was a poor one and reveals the type of thinking that will weaken the success and penetration of the format.

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