Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Kevin Smith's Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes have been on tour with their new film Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.

Cody was at one of the screenings, and these were his thoughts.

Kevin Smith wanted to play with his old toys again, he just couldn't seem to be able to make it happen. He was going to make Clerks III and the project got just two months away from filming, but then it all fell apart when Jeff Anderson - who plays Randal Graves, one of the two titular clerks - dropped out. It was surprising to hear that Anderson had bailed on Clerks III, since Clerks II (which he had been hesitant about) had convinced him that Clerks sequels could work, but apparently his exit was over a pay dispute. The same sort of issue that caused Smith and Anderson to have a post-Clerks falling out that lasted until the making of Dogma.

Then there was an attempt to get Mallrats II made, finally bringing the "Die Hard in a mall" sequel concept to the screen twenty years after that joke was first made. The sequel was called MallBrats and Smith tried to get it made as either a movie or a series, but he couldn't manage to get either iteration off the ground.

Doing another Clerks movie requires the involvement of Anderson and his co-star Brian O'Halloran. Making a Mallrats follow-up requires deals with Universal, the studio that owns Mallrats. But there are two characters Smith can use for any purpose at any time, and he can be pretty certain both actors will be up for anything. Especially since he's one of those actors. Jay and Silent Bob. Jason Mewes, who plays Jay, had been pushing for another Jay and Silent Bob movie (and even produced an animated one, Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie), and with Clerks III and MallBrats stalled out another Jay and Silent Bob movie turned out to be the best option to allow Smith to dig into his toybox.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot has the same basic set-up as 2001's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. In Strike Back, Jay and Silent Bob find out there's a movie being made of the Bluntman and Chronic comic that they were the basis for. They received likeness rights payments for the comic, but haven't received a "movie check", so they head out to Hollywood to crash the production. In Reboot they find out there's a gritty, gender-swapped reboot being made of the Bluntman and Chronic movie, and distributor Saban Films (the company that happens to be the U.S. distributor of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot) has made the claim that they own the names "Jay and Silent Bob". Thus, Jay and Silent Bob aren't legally allowed to use their own names anymore. This can't stand, so they head out to Hollywood to stop this reboot from happening.

The first time around, Jay and Silent Bob had to go to headquarters of the studio Miramax (which was Smith's home studio for many years) to try to stop the Bluntman and Chronic movie from being made. This time, they're going to thwart the production of reboot Bluntman V Chronic at Chronic Con, the Bluntman and Chronic convention where a major action sequence is going to be filmed.

While on this quest, Jay and Silent Bob cross paths with several characters from Smith's previous films, most of them characters we haven't seen since 2001. As Smith has said, this basically has "mini-sequels" to most of his old films in it. Mallrats lead Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee) is still running his comic book store Brodie's Secret Stash - and as you would expect, he loves the Marvel Cinematic Universe and pays tribute to the late Stan Lee, the man who gave him some great advice back in the day. A visit to the stores from Clerks shows that Dante Hicks (O'Halloran) is still working at the Quick Stop convenience store, but RST Video has gone out of business, so Randal isn't around. Joey Lauren Adams is in here as her Chasing Amy character Alyssa Jones. To work in some Dogma, Matt Damon makes a very odd cameo in which no other characters meet him, he just talks directly to the camera. Smith isn't playing by the rules here.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which was a standalone film when it was released, is retroactively merged into Smith's "View Askewniverse" when Justin Long shows up as a lawyer who is very clearly his Porno character Brandon St. Randy. They just couldn't say his name in this movie because Smith doesn't actually own the character. Movie rights are weird. Smith wrote and directed Zack and Miri Make a Porno, his friend Scott Mosier produced it, and yet he can't legally use a character from that movie in another one. At least he can still include characters from Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma.

Ben Affleck makes an appearance as his Chasing Amy character Holden McNeil, and his cameo is really heartwarming not only for the content of the scene but also due to the behind the scenes story. Affleck used to be a constant in Smith's films, but they eventually dropped out of contact with each other. Reboot is the first Smith film Affleck has shown up in since his quick cameo in Clerks II thirteen years ago, and to make this cameo happen Smith had to reach out to him after years of being out of touch.

Seeing Affleck interact with Smith and Mewes again after all this time, even hugging them at one point, got me choked up. And that wasn't the only time I got choked up. For a goofball movie that's not trying to be at all realistic, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is surprisingly emotional. And it even gives Jay a dramatic storyline to deal with.

On the way to Hollywood, Jay is reunited with his Strike Back love Justice (Shannon Elizabeth), who drops a bomb on him: back during the events of Strike Back, they conceived a child. Jay now has a teenage daughter named Millennium (or Milly), who is played by Smith's daughter Harley Quinn Smith. He never heard about the kid's existence before because he never visited Justice during the time she spent in prison for her involvement with a diamond heist in Strike Back. It's surprising to hear that Jay didn't visit her, especially since he had a tribute to her on his jacket in Clerks II, but the reason he gives for not visiting makes total sense for the character. So Jay has to process the information that he's a father while dealing with the fact that he missed years of Milly's life. And he can't just tell her he's her dad, Justice didn't want him to, even though she is hurt that she has never known her father. I never expected to see the Jay character get a story with this much depth, but it works very well and adds a level of heart and emotion that Strike Back didn't quite have.

Just like Justice got Jay and Silent Bob mixed up with a van full of female characters in 2001, their daughter does the same here, as Jay and Silent Bob catch a ride to Chronic Con with Milly and her pals Jihad (Aparna Brielle), Soapy (Treshelle Edmond), and Shan Yu (Alice Wen). All is not as it appears with this group, but I'll leave it at that.

There are a ton more cameos during Jay and Silent Bob's journey, including appearances by Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Schwalbach, Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek, Keith Coogan, Ralph Garman, Craig Robinson, Chris Jericho, Kate Micucci, Diedrich Bader (as his security guard character from Strike Back), Melissa Benoist, Val Kilmer, Tommy Chong, Fred Armisen, Molly Shannon, Rosario Dawson, Adam Brody, Dan Fogler, Method Man, and Redman... I might as well be listing the whole cast here, almost everyone is a featured cameo.

Things get extremely meta once the characters reach Chronic Con. I've never really been fond of moments when characters from the View Askewniverse reference View Askewniverse movies, like when Alyssa says the Bluntman and Chronic movie was "better than Mallrats" in Strike Back, and moments in this movie go very far into that territory. It feels weird to me, even if I find the nods  amusing.

The most unexpected cameo for me, aside from Affleck, comes when Smith gets a second role - playing a fictional version of Kevin Smith, director of Bluntman V Chronic. Smith and Silent Bob come face-to-face... Mind-bending. The movie world Kevin Smith wasn't meant to have as much screen time as he does, Stan Lee was supposed to be at the center of the film's third act, but unfortunately Lee passed away before Reboot went into production.

Smith has said that the opening scene of Reboot was lifted from the Clerks III script, while the climax was lifted from the MallBrats script. So even though we didn't get to see those entire movies, we get to see part of them here. And the part of MallBrats we see is the part that would have made it "Die Hard in a mall".

The humor in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot was occasionally too silly for my taste, but I appreciated the emotional aspect of it... and mostly I was just really glad to be able to see Kevin Smith get the chance to play with so many of his old characters again. I wouldn't recommend that anyone choose this movie to be the first Smith movie they watch, because it's so focused on giving us updates on the lives of characters from previous movies there are moments when new viewers might be totally lost. But for long time fans, this will be a treat.

Now it's looking like Clerks III and Mallrats II may be possible after all, and it would be fun to see those movies actually happen. I'm also still anxiously waiting for Moose Jaws, the "Jaws with a moose" movie that's supposed to wrap up the Tusk and Yoga Hosers "True North trilogy". Somebody needs to finance that as soon as possible.

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