Rated R - Running Time: 1:40 - Released 8/24/01

I said in my review of the South Park movie that the humor of that franchise is an acquired taste. Same goes here. Anyone unfamiliar with the streetwise, Gen-X humor of Jay and Silent Bob (the creation of Jersey-born writer/director/comic book store owner Kevin Smith)—who as a unit are possibly the biggest in-joke in movies today—or anyone who objects to the frequent use of the word "fuck" and various other obscenities, may find this film offensive, crude, self-indulgent, or just plain not funny. But if you've experienced them before, or if you're willing to subvert your moral indignation and enjoy some truly clever derivative humor, you may love it.

Jay Phat Buds (Jason Mewes), the long-haired, wiseass, street-talking dude who is always either smoking weed or looking to get laid, and Silent Bob (Smith), his portly, bearded "hetero life partner" in the full-length coat who seldom speaks but apparently follows the same agenda, have appeared in all of Smith's so-called "Jersey" movies [Clerks (1994), Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997), and Dogma (1999)], but always as side characters who are colorful but incidental to the plot. In Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, Smith's multidirectionally referential adventure about the two friends' attempt to stop the making of a Hollywood movie about them, they assume the weighty mantle of leading men; the role is unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but for the most part they pull it off.

The film, which requires Jay and Silent Bob to leave their beloved Jersey convenience store and travel across the country to infiltrate Hollywood, includes an abundance of actors reunited from Smith's films, like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (gleefully lampooning themselves and their movies), Joey Lauren Adams, Jason Lee, and co-producer Scott Mosier, as well as real-life directors Wes Craven (Scream) and Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting), among others. As usual, it contains many of Smith's trademarks, like references to the Star Wars movies (Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher both cameo), and although he only has a few onscreen lines, it's clear he was vocally specific on the set about what he wanted.

After learning from comic book store pal Brodie Bruce (Lee) that the "Bluntman & Chronic" cartoon series (derived from them) is being optioned by Miramax, and that there has already begun a groundswell of Internet-based disapproval from computer geeks everywhere, Jay and Silent Bob decide they must stop the production even if it means losing their legal right to a cut of the profits. They begin the inevitable road trip, during which they meet four dishy girl jewel thieves led by Shannon Elizabeth. After a long digression about a diamond heist (in which they end up caring for a displaced orangutan—don't ask), they arrive in Hollywood and find Chaka (Chris Rock), the comically racist director of the Bluntman & Chronic movie, and attempt to sabotage his film. By this time, however, they are on the run from inept Federal Wildlife Marshal Wilenholly (Will Ferrell), who wants to prosecute them for stealing the orangutan.

As with many successful comedies, the plot is eminently silly, but it is really secondary. The humor derives from the characters' personalities and dialogue, and from the numerous references to Hollywood movies which Smith has packed into the film. Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back is a great, low-budget effort to poke fun at the movie industry; if not a masterpiece of thespianism, it's at least a fun ride through Smith's quirky mind and the lives of his unique characters. ****

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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