Revisiting Kevin Smith’s Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back

Our Kevin Smith retrospective reaches the film that was supposed to mark the end of the View Askewniverse, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back...

“Why in God’s name would I wanna keep writing about characters whose central preoccupation are weed and dick and fart jokes? I mean, ya gotta grow man. Don’t you ever want anything more for yourself?”  – Holden

By the time 2001 rolled around, Kevin Smith was ready to make what he thought was his final step into the ‘View Askewniverse’ and go out with a bang with the two characters who had featured in every film of his to date: the unstoppable duo of Jay and Silent Bob.

After finally being banned from standing outside the Quick-Stop by Dante and Randal, Jay and Silent Bob find out from old friend Brodie (Jason Lee) that Bluntman and Chronic, the comic based on their likenesses, is going to be made into a movie. Angered that they haven’t received any type of payment for this they decide to hunt down Holden (Ben Affleck) and get him to pony up the cash. Having sold the rights to his partner Banky (Jason Lee…again), he no longer is involved but he does mention to the both of them that they and the movie are getting a negative response from the Internet movie site chat forums, prompting the two to decide to go to Hollywood and shut the movie down to save their good names or at least get a royalty cheque.

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After being thrown off the bus for smoking pot and being kicked out a nun’s car for following ‘The Book’, the duo end up hitching a ride with animal activists Sissy (Eliza Dushku), Missy (Mrs Kevin Smith, Jennifer Schwalbach), Chrissy (Ali Larter), Brent (Seann William Scott) and Jay’s new found love interest, Justice (Shannon Elizabeth). It is revealed to the audience that the activism is just a front for the girls to pull off a diamond robbery and Brent is their patsy. When Jay throws Brent out of the van to get closer to Justice, the girls decide to use them instead.

While Jay and Silent Bob let the animals loose, the girls complete their diamond heist but end up accidentally setting off the alarm, causing them to do a smash and grab rather than the elaborate robbery they had planned. Making a run for it they blow up the van, causing Jay to believe Justice has died and taking orangutan Suzanne with him as a memorial to her. When Wildlife Marshal Willenholly (Will Ferrell) shows up, he makes it his mission to get her back and take Jay and Silent Bob down.

With their plan coming together nicely, the girls hide out at a nearby hotel. Justice, who has started to develop feelings for Jay, begins to feel sorry for her actions but doesn’t have the courage to do anything about it. Meanwhile Jay, Silent Bob and Suzanne are enjoying dinner in a local diner when they are suddenly surrounded by Willenholly and his men, who threaten to open fire on them. One quick change later and they leave the diner with Suzanne dressed in children’s clothes, acting like an alternative family. Afraid of any political repercussions, he allows them to leave, only to realise his mistake and take chase.

After escaping Willenholly, the trio carry on their trip to Hollywood, only to have Suzanne taken by the Hollywood animal acting agency. Giving chase they finally make it to their destination and are captured in the background of the E! News bulletin. Having seen Jay on the screen, Justice decides to steal the diamonds back and do the right thing.

After a chase through the studio, rescuing Suzanne and crashing the set of Good Will Hunting 2: Hunting Season (a genius creation, complete with Gus Van Sant at the back of the room counting the money), the two find themselves face to face with their own screen personas, Dawson‘s Creek star James Van Der Beek and American Pie’s Jason Biggs.

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As the on-screen duo fight, Suzanne knocks them out and Jay and Silent Bob steal their costumes and make their way to the set, where they are forced to film a scene with Blutman and Chronic’s arch-nemesis Cock-Knocker (Star War’s Mark Hamill who is absolutely fantastic in a total tongue in cheek role). And in a cheeky tribute to The Empire Strikes Back, they cut his hand off, but before they can celebrate, Willenholly comes in to arrest them just as Justice shows up, closely followed by her gang who want their diamonds back.

A shootout ensues and Justice makes a deal with Willenholly to turn herself and the girls in for a reduced sentence and for Jay and Silent Bob to go free.

Meanwhile, the duo track down Banky and demand their royalty cheque, which they subsequently spend on tracking down and beating up every Internet poster who has disparaged their name and finish with a concert performed by Morris Day and The Time.

This movie does exactly what it says on the proverbial tin. The script and the plot are complete nonsense, but it’s an out and out comedy and it’s not afraid to be anything more. Nearly all of the main characters from Smith’s previous films pop up at some time or another along the way, which makes for plenty of in-jokes for fans of Smith’s previous films, and marks the ultimate swansong for that film making period in his life.

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Everybody on screen looks like they are having a blast and that travels effortlessly along to the audience. Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith are on top form as the title characters and kudos go to Jason Lee, who reprises both Mallrat‘s Brodie and Chasing Amy’s Banky, as he steals both the scenes he is in. There is also a major laugh out loud moment from Seann William Scott’s animal lover Brent who plays the innocent sidekick down a treat. Also look out for James Van Der Beek and Jason Biggs fight (“You wouldn’t last a day in the Creek”) and Gus Van Sant’s aforementioned cameo, both of which will leave you chuckling long after the movie has finished.

This movie is a total guilty pleasure for me. Each viewing still brings the laughs and really shows Smith’s gift for telling a good comedic story. There are no airs and graces to this movie and in a lot of ways it is a love letter to the fans that have stuck with him throughout his career.

Although planned to be the final of his movies set in this world, Smith would eventually revisit the familiar characters in Clerks II, but before then he made a move in a completely different direction and next time I will be looking at probably the most unpopular of his movies to date, Jersey Girl.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back Key Info:Released: 24th August 2001 (US) / 30th November 2001 (UK)Distributed By: Dimension FilmsBudget: $22,000,000Box Office Gross: $30,059,386Best DVD Edition: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back Dimension Collector’s Series