When Kevin Smith said that Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back would be the last Jay and Silent Bob movie ever, I was sad. I didn’t have a problem with Smith trying new things, but I liked Jay and Silent Bob and didn’t want to never see them again. I don’t know why I believed him. I’d already lived through two Friday the 13th final chapters and a Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, none of which ended their series.
Artists actually do mean it when they say they’re ending something. What they don’t realize at the time is that closure ends up inspiring new ideas for their legacies. It was only five years later Jay and Silent Bob appeared in Clerks II. Now it’s been long enough for Kevin Smith to actually do Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.
‘Jay and Silent Bob Reboot’ is an inside joke about an inside joke
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was the ultimate inside joke movie. It was not only devoted to references to Kevin Smith’s previous four movies, but also the online community that sprung up around his movies. Jay (Jason Mewes) and Bob (Smith) retaliated against an early form of internet trolls.
18 years later, a whole new world has sprung up since the quaint days of indie movies and website forums. Now, not only are reboots something Jay and Silent Bob can attack, in a meta way rebooting themselves, but there’s also Smith’s podcast empire, the streaming world, emojis and even deep cuts to projects Smith discussed but never made.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is exponentially more inside than Strike Back. Now, you not only have to know all of the previous films, but all of the offshoots that have sprung up since 2001. The explosion of comic book movies should be easy for most moviegoers. The fact that video stores are dead is significant to the Clerks lore and you’d better know the filmography of Smith’s new distributor, Saban Films.
I love this stuff. I’ve always felt inside jokes reward the loyal viewer, and if you don’t get it, then you can go watch the earlier movies and remember the joke for later.
It’s ‘Clerks III,’ ‘Mallrats II’ and even ‘Dogma 2’
Kevin Smith touches on all of the View Askewniverse films from the first five Jay and Silent Bob movies. Strike Back did that too, so it probably becomes confusing to count each Jay and Silent Bob as a sequel to Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and Dogma. Perhaps Jay and Silent Bob movies are The Avengers in which Smith’s other characters appear tangentially.
Enough time has passed that the follow-ups with classic Kevin Smith characters are more significant. Being a Mallrat is a very different thing in 2019, and the Dogma follow-up is a wonderfully absurd lark.
‘Jay and Silent Bob Reboot’ moves the franchise forward
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot begins as the same sort of elaborate inside joke Strike Back was. Everyone is having fun referencing their previous films. Kevin Smith even enjoys being self-deprecating. As Jay and Bob once again journey to Hollywood to stop a movie about them from being made, even travel has changed. Smith mocks his own Southwest airlines incident and rideshare is a factor now.
However, when Jay reunites with Justice (Shannon Elizabeth), the film starts to go in a new direction. Justice has lived life in the 18 years since she last saw Jay. Jay and Silent Bob are still repeating themselves. Justice’s daughter Millennium Falcon (Harley Quinn Smith) and her friends hitch a ride with Jay and Silent Bob to go to Hollywood.
Jay and Bob have to face millennials who were not even alive in their heyday of the ‘90s. The world, and pop culture, belong to them now. Millennium and her friends are dealing with serious emotional issues. Jay never thought about such things standing outside a convenience store selling weed so he suddenly discovers regrets he should have had much earlier in life.
Kevin Smith’s plea to look to the future
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot has fun returning to the well and playing in its sandbox, but unlike many cash-in reboots, Kevin Smith is not interested in just fan service. There’s plenty of it, but this film is ultimately Smith’s plea to look to the future. The film’s follow-up to Chasing Amy drives this home, and Ben Affleck still gets the best inside joke.
You can still enjoy the past as long as you keep moving forward. Kevin Smith is a father now, and his daughter is in his last three movies. He’s not going to make a movie with just the people he knew in the ‘90s so it will necessarily be different than the films he made in the ‘90s. Fortunately, such new additions like Harley Quinn only give Jay and Silent Bob Reboot more depth along with the fun romp.
Clerks II was Smith dealing with having a family and trying to figure out how he could keep making the same kind of comedies that made him successful. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot finds him four films into his self-distribution phase, still making movies with his family and friends his own way.
The point is neither to close the book on the past, as Smith attempted to do in Strike Back, nor regurgitate it. The point is to grow and growth only makes franchises, and families, better. Smith and Mewes are taking the film on a cross country tour with in person Q&A appearances.