Kevin Smith has become something of a mythic figure. He can, after all, almost single-handedly be credited for bringing geek culture to the mainstream and making it fashionable. Along with Tarantino and Rodriguez, Smith ushered in the era of the independent artist and tore at the clay feet of the industry forever altering the landscape. This can never be taken away from him. However, unlike his peers, Smith never really evolved in his craft.
For a good while that wasn't even a problem. Fans, myself included, adored the slew of movies he churned out, warts and all. We weren't there for his technical prowess (which he still has the barest minimum) or his artistic vision. No, we were there for the melodramatics of youth, the referential and pop culture heavy dialogue that balanced between the witty and the outright vulgar, seeing the banal brought to vibrant and well-meaning life, and, of course, to see what Jay and Silent Bob, that lovable duo of slacker stoners, were up to now. in short, he made us love the characters and shared universe he created for them.
That shared universe (the Askewniverse, properly) was the one he finally left behind in 2001 after going out with a huge, over-the-top, and fan service heavy flick called "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back". It was a big thank you to the fans that supported him for years and, though juvenile and ridiculous, a helluva crowd-pleasing, good time. And so, Kevin Smith set out to make more pedestrian fare....
Only to quickly discover that it was rather forgettable. So he returned to the Askewniverse with "Clerks II" which, surprisingly, showed that he may have learned some lessons and could now apply them to his universe of films. It also showed promise that he could ever so slightly mature his characters and maybe bring them along with his audience as they aged. Alas, after this outing he returned to mainstream film-making with a couple of movies that are best forgotten (Cop Out and Zack and Miri Make a Porno).
Bereft of any wit, originality, charm, or humor, these movies made many question his ability to stretch out beyond the world he knew best. The response actually made him temporarily retire before returning with legitimately good thriller that played quite far from his standard fare that people took notice. Since then he's made more questionable, albeit at least somewhat original material.
So, it was inevitable in some people's eyes and, after a close call with death, he decided to make "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot", a self-aware and meta indictment of Hollywood that would allow him to gather the gang back together again to do what they do best.
Alas, they did their worst.
"Jay and Silent Bob Reboot" is an abject failure. It is a film so stringently unfunny that I literally questioned whether my perception and love of Smith's previous Askewniverse material was legit or just a sweet memory. That sounds a bit like an exaggeration but it sadly was not. I literally sat aghast and watched scene after scene unspool before me evoking nary a hint of laughter or even a desire to laugh. So silent was my viewing that I looked over at my brother and saw the look in his face that surely reflected the one that struck mine, a perverse mix of confusion, anger, disappointment, and disgust. We went in with almost no expectations and still were dragged to the bowers of disappointment. If anything Smith was at full advantage to please given his less than stellar output as of late but from the outset something feels wrong.
Let's get something out of the way that's always been an issue with Smith films in some way or another. On a technical level Jay and SB Reboot is an ugly looking film. Make no mistake it's not hindered by low quality picture, instead the picture has a very rich yet terribly unbecoming color palette that makes everyone look their absolute worst. Ever wanted to see every nook and cranny in a person? Well, this one might do it for you then. Yes, the movie lingers somewhere between downright cheap looking and cinematic but never achieves either one. That can be forgivable though. What isn't is the editing which is something to marvel at...for all the wrong reasons.
We come for the laughs and though familiar ideas and themes crop up, the comic timing is so off in this movie that it actually becomes the most consistent thing in the movie to spot the moment when something COULD have been funny. Sadly, it is so perceptibly "fixable" with editing. In comedy every moment counts and milliseconds are precious, here they tick by like hours as if the editor (Smith himself) where telling you "this is when you laugh". Except you don't.
This brings us to another glaring issue in the film, the gimmick of being a meta reboot. Given the current climate in Hollywood this could have been a great opportunity for satire or an outright indictment of the state of affairs in the industry, instead, we get a boat load of rehashed jokes (which in the process are robbed of their original charm) and entire plot structures. The film tries to pass this off as clever but it's so transparently lazy that it a quickly becomes tiresome. Of course it doesn't end at rehashing jokes. How about endless cameos and callbacks to the mythos of the askewniverse? Hey, remember that scene that made you laugh years ago? Let's do that again only worse and then pat ourselves in the back by remind you that this is supposed to be self-aware. As for the cameos, some are so cheap and utterly useless (I'm looking at you Matt Damon as Loki) that they only serve to underline how much unnecessary fodder is shoehorned into this mess.
But what about the original stuff? Well, get ready for dad humor and puns. Lots and lots of puns. Also, strap in for a dead upon arrival running gag with emojis. Sigh. Equally guilty of dragging down the humor is the dependence on vulgarity. Nothing wrong with a dick and fart movie, that's why we loved "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" but there is everything wrong with thinking that vulgarity for vulgariy's sake is funny when it's not attached to anything remotely resembling actual humor.
And that's the main issue with this movie, it puts so much focus on bad jokes and callbacks to better movies that it loses sight of why we gave a crap about the jokes in the first place in the other Askewniverse movies....the heart and the characters. This movie has a story arc for Jay that could of saved it from being a complete failure. It wouldn't of excused the black hole of humor in its dead center BUT it would of given it a reason to exist. Jay, the irreverent stoner, is given a legitimately good character growth arc about fatherhood that the movie seems intent on putting in the backseat in favor of a shitty joke, cameo, or callback. It's an absolute shame that Smith failed to see why this needed to be front and center, though I can only assume he thought it was. it's a woefully anemic plotline despite it being the core one. The tragedy of the movie is that it HAD a heart but it ignored for cheap humor.
There are moments when you can see what could of been shine through. Jason Mewes legitimately puts his all into playing Jay but when everyone is coasting or in there for a seconds long cameo it's not enough to save the day. Ben Affleck's cameo return as Holden shows you how focusing on the heart of the movie would of done wonders for it but alas it's a fleeting moment in the literal sea of lame punchlines.
One final thing, "Jay and SIlent Bob Reboot" has a serious problem with pandering to a modern audience. Kevin Smith has clung tenaciously to his youth for years. It's his bread and butter, but the truth is he's an aging man and recent efforts like "Yoga Hosers" only show how desperately he wants to show modern kids that he's hip to them too. This movie is sickeningly self-congratulatory in how it embraces PC culture. Nothing wrong with inclusivity and diversity at all but constantly virtue signaling isn't a great foundation for hilarity. In fact, it contradicts what we know about the core characters as a whole. I will grant the movie that there is a scene or two where Jay comes into the realization of how outdated his thinking is that somewhat work but, as with much in this movie, it's not enough to excuse or save anything. In fact, it plays it safe in a movie that desperately needed to be out of the box to matter.
"Jay and SIlent Bob Reboot", like most reboots, is unnecessary and fails to capture the spirit of what made those old Jay and SB movies great. Some people clinging to their fond memories will defend it by saying that "that was the point" but, no, the point was to make a funny movie that ALSO said something about the industry and took us on a journey that made a beloved character grow. We don't get that. All we get is low quality copies of old gags utterly robbed of their sense of humor, bad editing, lazy writing, useless cameos, and, worse of all, a movie that favors all that over the one thing that could of made it worthwhile...heart. The movie is like a selfish lover, it coasts on love and goodwill and gives nothing in return.
"Jay and Silent Bob Reboot" will have a lot of apologists but I can not be one. I did not care for anything in it, it has no redeeming factors, and literally didn't make me laugh, internally or otherwise, once. As much as I love the Askewniverse this movie is an abomination. 0/10.