Stoners Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) are back to take on the movie industry! Wait, haven’t they done this already? Well, yes but the situation has changed. This time, movie producers have taken the legal rights to their names as part of their plans to reboot Bluntman and Chronic – the comic based on their exploits. Determined to set things right, the duo hit the road to Hollywood and it’s filled with many trips down memory lane and new life-changing revelations.
Considering the last time we saw Jay and Silent Bob have a cinematic outing was back in 2001, you’d be right to be worried about seeing the duo appear once again nearly 20 years later. The trailers for Kevin Smith’s latest film initially just told me I was getting more of the same silliness from Jay and Silent Bob. Though considering the last time they had their own movie adventure was 2001, I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to see another Jay and Silent Bob film. I felt these films had essentially run their course.
But the events leading to this latest entry being filmed plays a significant part in why we do have this “Reboot”.
A year before the cameras even started rolling, Kevin Smith, the creator of the characters and beloved cult director of Clerks, Mallrats and Dogma, suffered a near-fatal heart attack in February 2018 after finishing a performance on stage. Such a major, potentially, life-ending moment has likely put a lot of things in perspective for the director and the return of this stoner duo surprisingly mediates on growing up and coming to terms with mortality. It’s this platform that makes Reboot so much more than a simple retread; it’s an enjoyable funny yet at times reflectively mature adventure for Jay and Silent Bob.
That’s not to say things are radically different, they’re not and it’s business as usual with Jay and Silent Bob still smoking weed and inadvertently causing trouble in Leonardo, New Jersey. It’s just this second voyage to Hollywood outing to reclaim their names widens their perspectives on life with life-changing revelations. The main one coming in the form the shocking announcement that Jay has a teenage daughter, Milly (Harley Quinn Smith) from his brief romance of Justice (Shannon Elizabeth) after the events of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
It is a Kevin Smith comedy and humour is in abundance. With Smith’s jokes and unique observations now squarely focused on living with today’s diverse society, the current state of movies and even how Smith’s own film making career has gone. While it’s mostly enjoyable, if there’s something I think might be slightly off-putting is the over-reliance of the meta humour. Reboot has a number of jokes that only work if you’re familiar with the films or Kevin Smith’s life and career. It makes bringing in new audiences considerably hard because chances are they won’t have any idea why we – as the audience – should be happy to see characters like Brodie Bruce, Holden McNeil and good old Dante Hicks.
Reflecting back on Smith’s earlier films, the first film of the View Askew universe I saw was Dogma and that felt easier to get into because there weren’t so many nods, winks and nudges to the camera. It’s similar even with films like Chasing Amy and Mallrats. No previous knowledge was truly needed to appreciate the films but it was a welcomed bonus. The over-reliance here ultimately highlights that Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is really for the fans and no one else.
If you are a fan, you’re going to feel right at home regardless and there’s a hefty amount of returning faces – as Smith has joked in interviews are possibly in the film because of his heart attack. If you’re a die-hard View Askew fan, you’re going to be right at home with Reboot and returning characters make welcoming additions to the story. From the original Clerks to Zack and Miri Make a Porn, all of Smith’s films link into Reboot. Some noticeable faces, like a fallen angel, will add a meta-joke here and there. Even with the established cameos, there are still some surprise appearances. Keep an eye out for an Avenger and a current wrestling champion. But absolutely stick around during the credits for an appearance from a comic book legend that is utterly touching, charming and a sweet nod to Mallrats. Especially considering things came full circle recently in Captain Marvel.
If the humour comes across as hit and miss, Reboot hits its mark firmly is its moments of maturity and helps brings about some of the best elements of the film. Particularly with Jason Mewes’ performance as Jay. Granted, Jay’s presence in these movies has always been the lewd, potty-mouthed trouble making stoner but here things start to change. That daughter revelation might seem like your typical trope but it serves as a blossoming moment of maturity for the character during the course of the film as Jay attempts to try to connect with Milly. Coming to terms with his own parentless upbringing, the stoner becomes more adult than he has ever been. Watching Mewes transform the character to handle his newly discovered parentage is delightful and partnered up with Smith’s usual mature musing on life, it’s touching.
Smith’s strongest qualities as a writer are with these musings. Reflection, priorities, lessons learned – they all hit home harder this time around. If you’ve been through the films with all of Smith’s characters, you will likely find it easy to relate to the many weary dialogue exchanges between Askew characters. You’ll be evaluating your life thinking about who you were when the films first started coming out, how life has changed, what are your life priorities and other reflections. Almost along the same lines as these characters.
Of course, some fans out there will ask why is Smith retreading the same old ground? He’s a talented director, established comic book writer, and more so why are we still clinging on to the View Askew universe? I was pondering this after viewing the trailers. But, there is some clarity to this after watching the film. The screening I attended for the film back in November was accompanied by a recorded Q&A and this question was put to the director. Smith was keen to point out that he has tried different things such as Red State and Tusk, but when critics and audiences are telling him that’s not what they want to see from him, he feels that’s where his attention should be. Therefore, the audience can’t complain when Smith returns to the film series universe that cemented his name among indie film fans. Make of that as you will, Clerks 3 and Mallrats 2 are next on Smith’s cinematic plate. Considering how the universe has expanded and matured, even with all the lewdness, I don’t personally think its a bad thing.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is a welcome return to the View Askew universe. It continues to showcase Smith’s humour and his heart will not change the audiences who don’t enjoy the View Askew films. It’s not even the right place to start if you’re curious and want to watch them – go back to the original Clerks and work through the films. That way, the film becomes a lot more rewarding for the fans that have stuck with the director through thick and thin. It also helps make those reflective moments pack an even powerful punch.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is out on Blu-Ray, DVD and streaming platforms now.
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If you’re looking to read more into the world of Jay and Silent Bob and Clerks – Bunkazilla took part in a press interview with some of the original cast members from Clerks that also included talking about Reboot. Check it out here.
Trailer Warning: This is a Red-Band Trailer, it’s definitely NSFW! Don’t say we didn’t warn you!