Review: Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019)
Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, and a cast of thousands.  Written and directed by Kevin Smith.

In 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, two side characters in Kevin Smith’s early films become central characters.  Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) learn a movie is being made about them without their permission, so they drive to Hollywood to stop the film. While the stoner-slacker buddy road-trip movie is stupid beyond words, it’s also smart, clever, and fun, and I’ll repeat my assertion that Smith is the most Gen X of Gen X screenwriters.

In 2019’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, the same characters learn a reboot is in production — without their permission — of the movie they tried to stop in 2001, so they drive to Hollywood to stop the film.  Jay and Silent Bob Reboot takes aim at Hollywood’s recent creative climate of sequels, remakes, and reboots, while at the same time being all three.

I’m not kidding.  In one very explainy scene, our heroes learn the difference between a sequel, a remake, and a reboot, and it’s clear very early that the movie we’re watching is all of them.

The easiest thing to say about a Kevin Smith film in his View Askewniverse is that it’s so self-referential with so many jokes about itself, if you’re jumping in for the first time, you’re unlikely to enjoy it, because you’d have to appreciate it on its surface, and there’s just not enough there.  Chasing Amy is probably the one exception.

Yet if you see more than one of these films, it’s nearly impossible to miss the thing that makes Smith a hero to his faithful: his characters grow up, and in doing so, they show us Smith’s (and now Mewes’s) own growth.  Smith doesn’t merely wear his heart on his sleeve; he paints it on his forehead, openly discussing — in podcasts, interviews, and his live Q&A shows — not only his fears and failures, but his love for his family and friends, and his tenacious loyalty to both.

I saw Clerks II (2006) in a theater and hated it until the closing credits rolled and I realized I loved what Smith did.  He brought his characters back for yet another stupid-smart movie and delivered a treatise on Gen Xers hitting middle age.  Not just these Gen Xers, but Gen Xers as a whole.

So here’s this movie, laden with callbacks and appearances by characters from his past films, referencing Smith’s real-life, well-known adventures (a near-fatal heart attack and subsequent weight loss and conversion to veganism; a highly publicized adventure in an airplane where he was ruled too fat to fly) and loaded with his friends and family (his mother, wife, and daughter are in the film, as is Mewes’s daughter), plus stupid jokes and entire dialogues lifted from other films.

In one scene, a klansman steals Cyrus’s “Caaaaaan youuuuuuu digiiiiiiit?” from The Warriors and immediately after, in the same scene, Silent Bob delivers Alec Baldwin’s “always be closing” monologue from Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s shameless idolatry and it’s pretty dang funny, because Smith’s purpose is not to create a coherent story.  It’s to have as much fun with as many friends as possible while allowing his characters to grow up the way real people do.

Because I’m Smith’s intended audience, I can’t lie.  I bought it, and then I watched it twice more. My only real disappointment is that the DVD doesn’t come with a director’s track.  The director’s commentary is the best thing about a Kevin Smith DVD, so I’ll be waiting for a tenth anniversary re-release by the Criterion Collection.


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