Striking Out

The first 10 minutes of Kevin Smith's newest film, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, epitomize why the last of the writer-director-actor's "View Askew" or "New Jersey" films is both so good and yet so frustrating.

It's the mid-1970s and slacker-stoners Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) are sitting in their baby carriages outside a convenience store. Hanging on the side of the store is a large white sign that reads "I Assure You We're Open," and the first word out of little Jay's mouth is "f---." Five minutes later, Jay and Silent Bob, suddenly all grown up and dressed in the same attire they wore in Smith's other films--Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma--are speaking with Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck's character from Chasing).

Apparently, Miramax is making a movie out of "Bluntman and Chronic," the comic book that Holden and his friend Banky (Jason Lee) based on Jay and Silent Bob. Holden shows them that the characters are getting trashed on an Internet movie fan site, and the self-dubbed "heterosexual life mates" decide they must go to Hollywood to stop the filming. Holden advises them that "knowing Miramax," they should look for the set with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on it.

There are four main jokes in this opening sequence (with others sprinkled along the way), and all of them are funny. The convenience store, the sign outside of it and the clerks themselves are the same as those in the film's predecessors. The f--- from Jay is pitch-perfect, and we finally see why the word is Jay's favorite in the English language. And his later diatribe to Holden about why they can't let fanboys ruin their reputations, along with Affleck's self-dig, is also hilarious.

But while the laughs abound, the jokes come off as too obscure and too inconsistent. The four main jokes all fall under different types of humor--references to Kevin Smith films, shock value, references to fanboys and references to other movies, respectively.

If you're not a fan of Kevin Smith, don't like to hear f--- about 20 times a minute, are not a regular of Internet movie fan sites like Ain't It Cool News or are not a film buff, these jokes will be lost on you. Essentially, a third of the audience is laughing, and the rest are stone-faced.

And you can expect the same from the rest of the movie. As Jay and Silent Bob make their way across the country, they experience all of the standards of a road-trip movie while running into Kevin Smith regulars like Matt Damon, Chris Rock and Joey Lauren Adams, as well as newcomers Will Ferrell and Tracy Morgan. Jason Biggs and James Van Der Beek also appear as the real stars of "Bluntman and Chronic."

The jokes come fast and furious, and some border on being quite offensive. But they are uneven and random--you almost wish Smith had just picked one type of humor and stayed with it. This is a film for a small niche of the paying public, and more likely than not, you're not part of it.


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