Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

I know all of my fans have been waiting with incredible anticipation for me to report on my Lester, Live at Red Rocks!!! concert and PBS fund raiser. We taped last night and I'm sure it'll be one of public television's more memorable evenings. To save on props and things, most of the show was direct from my Ssssoundssss of Ssssilence tour - I made a fabulous entrance out of the giant serpent's egg in my Black Mamba dress and launched immediately into All I Asp of You. The applause was deafening and I really do need to thank Walter and Carolyn of Mangiotto productions for their ability to turn out the good folk of Denver on such short notice.

The first few numbers went relatively smoothly and then those damned PETER (People for the Ethical Treatment of Estimable Reptiles) began to act up. First off, a delegation of members stormed the stage and tried to read a statement about the enslavement of snakes in the entertainment industry (known as the PETER principles). They were quickly hustled off by security. Another band then began to launch water balloons filled with red paint at the stage to symbolize the shedding of innocent reptile blood in the making of snakeskin belts and wallets. They had miscalculated. This place is known as red rocks so the paint didn't even show up on the amphitheater walls. None of the missiles came close to hitting me as I tapped my way through a routine choreographed to the score of Anaconda but a couple of the back-up dancers got unlooked for red dye jobs. Lastly, the PETER folks tried to encourage the local rattlesnake population to invade the audience but we had let a large number of white mice go in the theater a few hours before show time so they were all feeling sluggish and uninterested in scare tactics.

PETER was defeated, the little bits of unpleasantness will be edited out before broadcast and I think I have again proved to the world that it messes with Mrs. Norman Maine at its peril. I was in a boisterous mood after the concert so I headed off to the local Cineplex to see what I hoped would be a boisterous comedy, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back from Kevin Smith. I have been a Kevin Smith fan since I first saw his debut feature, Clerks a number of years ago - here was a voice that was fresh, smart, scatological, and funny as hell. His sophomore effort, Mallrats was a bit of a misfire but did give early breaks to Ben Affleck and Jason Lee. He then made the sophisticated comedy, Chasing Amy which, despite a certain level of misogyny and essential misunderstanding of lesbian, sparkled with wit. His film Dogma, from last year, was a wildly uneven comedy on Catholicism which actually was far more daring regarding the essential nature of religion than almost anything else out of Hollywood in recent decades.

Smith tends to use his stable of actor friends over and over. He also has a number of recurring characters that pop up in his 'View Askew' universe, most notably Jay (Jason Mewes) and his compadre Silent Bob (Smith himself). His most recent film is self described as a valentine to his fans as he plans on retiring most of these characters so he can grow and change and move on with his film craft. In this film, Jay and Silent Bob are still hanging out at the Quik Stop from Clerks (Brian O'Halloran as Dante and Jeff Anderson as Randall reprise their roles in cameos.) They discover that Holden (Ben Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee) from Chasing Amy have sold the rights to The Adventures of Bluntman and Chronic, a comic inspired by their exploits, to Miramax. In a poke at 'Ain't it Cool' and other film sites, the daffy duo discover the internet and negative buzz about them. They decide that the only way to keep people from talking nasty about them is to go to Hollywood and prevent the film from being made. After this initial set up, the film becomes a generic episodic 'road' picture as our two heroes have a series of misadventures getting to Hollywood, and even more after they get there. This allows Smith to write in cameos for every Hollywood friend of his and leads to a lot of unfunny chase bits involving an orangutan directly out of Any Which Way But Loose and Will Ferrell as some sort of hyperactive federal wildlife marshal.

These episodes spoof everything from Star Wars to The Fugitive to Charlie's Angels to X-men to Good Will Hunting. Unfortunately, the spoofs are tired and trite and make one long for the heyday of the Zucker brothers who knew how to set up a spoof, play the gag, and then move on without lingering. Smith lets the air out of the film over and over again by letting unfunny sequences drag on and on. He isn't helped by the fact that he's chosen the two least interesting characters in his universe as protagonists. Mewes' Jay is as welcome a screen presence as nails on a blackboard. In the other films, where his character serves as spice, he works. As protagonist, he's deadly. Smith's Silent Bob fares a bit better because he doesn't open his mouth much but his mugging grows awfully old awfully fast.

The film might have worked if Smith's ear for trenchant and witty dialog hadn't escaped him this time around. We get the usual scatological references but, rather than being fresh and amusing, this time they seem tired and worn out - as if he had been cribbing from Porky's IV. He also overplays the gay jokes way, way too much - in the past, this type of homophobic humor came off as snarky, This time, it seems to be simply unpleasant and overdone. Even the bits with talented comic actors like Carrie Fisher are lame as the dialog doesn't sparkle the way it has in his prior movies and, by the time we get to Mark Hamill as something called a 'Cock Nocker', I was embarrassed for the whole crew.

Smith has done better work before and will do better work again - but this film is only for those who are View Askew completists.

Comic book shop. Trucker head. Nun abuse. Vinyl clad jewel thieves. Gratuitous female flatulence. Shot gunned Mooby cow. Animal escapees. Orangutan diaper. Gratuitous Ben Affleck hooker jokes. Gratuitous James Van Der Beek. Even more gratuitous Jason Biggs. Seann William Scott in bad Prince Valiant wig. 

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