The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Kevin Smith, here, as I screen Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back for, ahem, the first time, is when I met him in San Diego at a comic convention many moons and worlds ago. I want to say it was 1997 but I could be wrong. There he was, an unassuming and approachable guy sitting, at a table of comics fanned toward the center aisle for happy patrons to pluck through and scatter. He was alone, looking as I imagined, whatever that’s supposed to mean, wares between us as I scooted across the leaf and jungle pattern carpet. “Hey,” I bibbed, a little electrical spark shooting from my finger as I nervously fingered the table leg. We spoke briefly, chit chat mostly, things I don’t have memory of, and just before I hurried away, Jason Mewes returned to the table. “Hey,” I said. “Hey,” Jason replied, his alter-ego prevalently close to the surface yet subdued – I imagine his response to the question, “How much of Jay is Jason?” to which he might reply, “Jason is Jay, jackass.” I don’t remember that conversation either, not really, but Jason was equally friendly or in the least humble and we made small talk smaller over their films, writing, the “industry” meaning comic-land not Hollywood. I left to find something in the convention hall, anything really, one of many anthologized movie script paper backs or better, something more personal that I could have Kevin and Jason sign. But when I made my return I couldn’t even see their table any more – a line of avid fans and celebrity signature hounds were pressed in around them like eager fans at a dog fight with big, doe-like eyes and hands clutching at a wire fence. What I took away from my brief encounter was how Kevin and Jason seemed like the rest of us, just a couple of guys who found a way for their unique style to reach the hungry and the sublime searching for their own suspension bridge out of mediocrity.
Sitting down to watch J&SBSB was a necessary treat. I wasn’t there to criticize, besides I’m 9 years too late for most reviews. I didn’t arrive at the door of more, or come along to ramble while I drooled, an enthralled fan of fans; besides, I’m holed up in El Cerrito and at this very minute Kevin is most likely into mischief somewhere far better than this, weather not withstanding – even if he is stuck in a hotel room without a view.
You get all the familiar trappings of a Kevin Smith film in J&SBSB, the familiar characters, his Askewniverse and rapid fire dialogue; I kept wondering why is this so familiar and different at the same time? It’s the feeling you get when you’re midway in season two-of-six of your favorite cable show and the way ahead is by far nowhere near over and you settle in because, well, it’s comfortable. My only complaint, my only true complaint, is the typical second act slump that is the devil of most slapstick, screwball, silly romp-films – especially films from Kevin Smith. Now that’s not saying I didn’t like the film, rather I think it’s important to understand the workings of films so you know why something falls flat as shite and how to recognize said turd-biscuit because it might be helpful the next time you plunk down your money for a Bruckheimer film. Wait a minute, that might come across like I’m putting the two worlds of films in the same hemisphere which I’m not. Nope. Those two universes would never collide because the resulting mix would be the equivalent of a star exploding. And that’s bad. That being said, I feel similarly about films like Superbad and Super Troopers, which btw I also like tremendously. So what I’m getting at, finally, is not so much a criticism as an observation, and as a screenwriter myself something I will keep in mind as I’m sucking down my fourth cup of coffee at one in the afternoon trying to write dialogue like Kevin Smith and plots like David Hare‘s screenplay for The Hours.
I’m always amazed at Jason Mewes verbal prowess, his ability to come across simultaneously as dim-wit and savant as though he carries marbles around in his mouth, yet rattles off keen and rapier run-on-sentences like the finest Shakespearean pentameter.That might be difficult to visualize, Hamlet making air-blow-jobs, the King’s kinsman Macbeth holding a pool cue in one hand and a blunt in the other. Whereas some might find silent Bob, well, too silent except for his infrequent explosions of choice words, I follow his expressions, rich and telling as if in a silent film where pancake made-up actors were required to project expression across the room and through the silver screen between title cards. The allotment of other characters are equally appreciated in small amounts, their contribution however great or small necessarily kept short as their stories seem hardly as important as the mischief and slackerness of Jay and Silent Bob.