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"JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK"
(2001) (Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: After discovering that a movie is going to be made featuring their comic book counterparts, a verbose stoner and his mostly silent sidekick set out on a road trip across the country to stop the film from being made.
PLOT:
Usually content just to hang out near a Jersey convenience store, deal drugs and discuss any variety of issues, verbose and vulgar stoner, Jay (JASON MEWES), and his taciturn friend, Silent Bob (KEVIN SMITH), have a new beef. Upon visiting Brodie Bruce (JASON LEE), a local comic book maven, the two discover that their friends, Banky Edwards (also JASON LEE) and comic book artist Holden (BEN AFFLECK), have sold them out by selling the rights for a movie starring their comic book alter egos, Bluntman & Chronic.

After then learning that they're also being bad-mouthed on the Internet about supposedly selling out to Miramax who will produce the film, Jay and Silent Bob then decide they must stop the movie, lest their reputations be tarnished forever. Accordingly, they set out for Hollywood and in doing so, run into various interesting characters along the way.

Among them is a hitchhiker (GEORGE CARLIN) who shows the two a unique way to get rides, as well as a quartet of attractive young women -- Sissy (ELIZA DUSHKU), Chrissy (ALI LARTER), Missy (JENNIFER SCHWALBACH) and Justice (SHANNON ELIZABETH) - who want to use Jay and Silent Bob as their patsies for a diamond heist after their after fall guy, Brent (SEANN WILLIAM SCOTT), is jettisoned from both their van and plan.

That fiasco inevitably teams the two with an orangutan and sets them in the sights of Federal Wildlife Marshal Willenholly (WILL FERRELL) who will track them across the country to bring them to justice, especially after they're mistaken for being militant animal rights activists.

As the two eventually arrive in Hollywood and encounter both the famous - including Ben Affleck and Matt Damon - and others such as a security guard (DIEDRICH BADER) who joins in the pursuit of them, Jay and Silent Bob do what they can to find and stop the movie -- that's being directed by Chaka (CHRIS ROCK), an angry African-American filmmaker - before their lives are ruined forever.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
It's a common saying in Hollywood that one shouldn't act with kids or animals as they'll either be a pain to work with or will inevitably upstage you. I bet it's not uncommon for some star performers to think the same thing about their human costars who, while obviously almost always necessary cogs for the story, occasionally also upstage them.

While the stars get all of the money and fame, we're often talking big egos here, and to have a supporting performer steal the film or at least certain scenes from them is an unsettling proposition for some. One need only think of Rhys Ifans in "Notting Hill" upstaging the film's higher profile leads, or Henry Winkler (as well as Robin Williams) doing the same back on TV's "Happy Days."

When that happens, of course, greedy producers and/or studios smell the potential for another lucrative franchise and cash cow, so they often give such upstart performers more onscreen time or their own starring vehicles, although the latter is obviously more popular and easy to do in the TV industry. Although the "boob tube" is rife with spin-offs - some of them successful, some of them not - it does occasionally occur in the movies, such as will be the case with The Rock getting his own film after appearing in "The Mummy Returns."

The most recent example of the new starring role - or roles in this case - can be found in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," a highly irreverent and vulgar but often quite funny film. The titular characters -- long-haired and verbose stoner (Jason Mewes) and his more rotund and taciturn sidekick (Kevin Smith) --first appeared as minor ones in writer/director Smith's breakthrough film, "Clerks," and then returned in the filmmaker's follow-up films in his "New Jersey Chronicles" (that included "Mallrats," "Chasing Amy" and "Dogma").

Since they often stole the scenes and/or film in which they appeared - and did so right under the noses of bigger stars such as Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and others - it was only a matter of time before they were rewarded with their own picture. Of course, Smith has also announced that he'll be retiring the characters after this effort, so many may see this falling into the "a little too late" category as far as turning them into their own franchise. Yet, only time, fan reaction and box office returns will tell whether Smith is man enough to stick to his guns in keeping his word.

Regardless of that matter, there's little debate that his and particularly Mewes' characters are an acquired taste, and those not familiar with them from Smith's previous films could be in for quite a shock if they walk into this picture blind. That's because the two - okay, really just Mewes' character -- comes from a long line of cinematic slackers who speak their minds and thus let loose a torrent of profanity, sexual comments and all sorts of slurs.

Hidden within all of that, however, is Smith's usual slickly written and often smart dialogue as well as the semblances of what's sort of a sweet little story. Like Cheech and Chong, Jeff Spicoli and Bill & Ted, there's something innately likable about Jay the slacker/stoner, and Mewes puts so much verbal and physical effort into delivering his expletives that it actually becomes funnier as it progresses (as long as you don't mind and/or aren't offended by the torrent of profanity that erupts from his mouth).

The underlying plot - a modified road movie where the two characters meet other "interesting" folk along the way to stopping a movie being made about their comic book alter egos - isn't much more than a throwaway device designed to allow for the various comical vignettes and spoofs of other films, such as "Charlie's Angels," "Planet of the Apes" and the "Scream" series.

Some of them are funny and some aren't quite so, and Smith goes more on the attack of the hand that feeds him - namely Miramax and some of its galaxy of stars - even if all of that comes with a wink and nudge and has far more of an insider feel to it than did his earlier and obviously outsider films. The best such bits include Ben Affleck and Matt Damon not only shooting "Good Will Hunting II: Hunting Season," but also wittily cutting down the other for the various bad and/or misguided films in which they had previously appeared.

Thankfully, one needn't be familiar with Smith's previous efforts to understand, appreciate or enjoy what's offered. Yet, the greater one's working knowledge of those past films, the more entertaining the end result will be as Smith has resurrected characters or least some of the performers from them - including Jason Lee ("Almost Famous," "Chasing Amy"), Joey Lauren Adams ("Big Daddy," "Chasing Amy"), Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson (the latter two from "Clerks"), among others -- in what amount to many inside jokes.

The rest of the large cast includes performers such as Chris Rock ("Down to Earth," "Nurse Betty"), Will Ferrell ("A Night at the Roxbury," "Superstar") and Shannon Elizabeth ("Tomcats," the "American Pie" films) playing one-note characters - some of them funnier than others - with various cameos by the likes of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher (both from the "Star Wars" films), Judd Nelson ("Light It Up," "The Breakfast Club"), Shannen Doherty ("Mallrats," TV's "Beverly Hills 90210"), Jason Biggs ("Saving Silverman," the "American Pie" films) and comedian George Carlin.

Overall, the film is a hit or miss proposition, with some of the comedy hitting on all cylinders and other bits knocking and pinging too much to be funny throughout. Yet, what makes the film work is Mewes and Smith's portrayal of the titular characters. Like many other funny cinematic duos, the two have perfected the simple but effective chemistry between their onscreen counterparts and the results are nearly always amusing, if not occasionally hilarious.

Although it's probably a good thing that they won't wear out their welcome by becoming a constantly returning franchise (if Smith really does retire the characters after this film), it's both fun and funny to see them finally get their one shot in the full limelight. Certainly not a perfect comedy and definitely not one for all viewers, yet entertaining enough for what it's trying to do and be for its target audience, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed August 20, 2001 / Posted August 24, 2001


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