Stoner heroes Jay and Silent Bob are among the least likely characters to become leads in two meta films. After all, they started life as side characters in Kevin Smith‘s debut “Clerks” 25 years ago. Now, almost two full decades after taking center stage in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” they have returned. “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” brings back Smith’s lovable characters, while returning the filmmaker to his View Askew cinematic universe. A heartfelt and humorous bit of fan service, this picture is sure to please fans. Going back to the characters that helped make him famous, the verbose storyteller has made an enjoyably old school experience.
“Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” takes a bit to find its groove, but Smith is able to not just make this a reboot/remake of “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” It’s very much a sequel as well, while finding time to work in references to/cameos from almost every other Askewniverse production. What could have been too derivative or exhausted quickly finds fuel in the mild tweaks to the formula. Though easily identified as a Smith production, the slight evolution in his style helps make it fresher than it might otherwise have felt.
The film is a meta work, functioning as reboot/remake/sequel of “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” Again, Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) have discovered that Hollywood is making a flick out of their comic alter egos, Bluntman and Chronic. This time, it’s a remake, which they learn about when the production steals the rights to their names during a legal proceeding. After they’re educated on the wave of reboots of intellectual properties by Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee), the duo hit the road, headed towards Tinseltown. A stopover in Chicago runs them into Jay’s former lover, Justice (Shannon Elizabeth), who reveals that they have a daughter, the moody Milly (Harley Quinn Smith), who doesn’t know who her father is. When she hears where they’re headed, she recruits them to take her along, as well as some friends. Jay and Bob resist, but since one is now a dad, he opts to try and get in some secret daddy/daughter time.
As the group heads towards Hollywood, both needing to get to the annual Chronic Con, they have very different plans in mind. The stoners want to stop the reboot, while Milly and her girlfriends have a more emotional goal. At the convention, it’s a chance to see some more celebrity cameos, as well as an important check in with Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck). Whereas Silent Bob gave Holden some life advice in “Chasing Amy,” it’s Holden who drops some wisdom on Jay. There’s third act emotion to be found, for sure, but it’s also a manic action finale, one that sees the production intentionally become the thing it has been making fun of the whole time.
If an actor or actress has taken part in a Smith flick, odds are they show up. However, the leads are again Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, along with Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith. The main subplot concerns Mewes growing up, so he and the younger Smith end up sharing some tender scenes. No one will mistake Mewes for Joaquin Phoenix, but this is the most endearing we’ve ever seen him. The elder Smith remains a master of the facial expression, while his offspring is a fiery addition of youthful energy. The three are family offscreen, helping lend a familiar vibe on-screen.
Ben Affleck certainly has the cameo with the most weight, as his scene is essential to this movie, while also updating us on where the leads of “Chasing Amy” are now. A monologue written in part to address the falling out between Affleck and Smith gives him a vintage Holden moment. The aforementioned Shannon Elizabeth and Jason Lee are joined by Joey Lauren Adams, Diedrich Bader, Jason Biggs, Matt Damon, and James Van Der Beek, in terms of some of the “Strike Back” returnees. Then, there are other supporting players like Fred Armisen, Melissa Benoist, Rosario Dawson, Chris Hemsworth, Val Kilmer, Justin Long, and Craig Robinson, just to name a few.
Filmmaker Kevin Smith is delighted to be playing with his old toys again, and it shows. His directing remains simple and static, though his writing is all over the map. The jokes about the nature of Hollywood are clever, and anything View Askew-related works. Some of the random comedy falls flatter, though when he goes for his more heartfelt messaging, it’s surprisingly effective. The Affleck scene in particular features some of his vintage script work, professing an earnestness that offsets the baser comedic moments. Smith has been funnier and he’s been more emotional before, but this film mixes the two in a pleasing manner. Credit to Smith as an editor too, as this is a lean 95 minutes that never drags.
There’s a charming throwback quality to the movie. For all the nods toward wokeness and modern diversity, this is close to what Smith was beloved for in the 1990s. Sure, the plot rips off the original on purpose, as part of its satirization, but it’s also the function of Smith’s screenplay. His more purely comedic efforts have been far more traditional than his dramatic or genre ones. All of this should really lend an appeal to long time fans of the creative force.
If the thought of Jay and Silent Bob running around again while Smith satirizes the ubiquitous nature of reboots/remakes/sequels, brings a smile to your face, then “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” is for you. Smith won’t win over any new fans, like his more offbeat efforts such as “Red State” and “Tusk” had the potential to, but he capably plays to his base. The base may have gone from young folks to middle aged parents, but so too have Smith’s characters. An old fashioned Smith comedy, he manages to sneak in some mild evolution too. It’s good to have the Askewniverse back!