Kevin Smith must be doing something right. This sly, fearless satirist from New Jersey can't make a movie without getting his ass kicked by special-interest groups. Clerks, his 1994 launch as a writer and director, not to mention his acting debut as Silent Bob alongside Jason Mewes as his hetero life mate Jay, was a $27,000 production that had media watchdogs howling over its foul language. Smith's subsequent films, Mallrats and Chasing Amy, consolidated his image as a dangerous influence on tender minds. Then the Catholics cried blasphemy in 1999 when Dogma was released and he had cast Alanis Morissette as a mute and vengeful God. The church still stands.
And so, happily, does Smith. His latest comic opus, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, is already drawing fire from GLAAD, the gay and lesbian anti-defamation group that takes offense at the film's proliferation of queer jokes. Example: George Carlin does a cameo as a hitchhiker who carries a sign: will give head for ride. Asks Jay, "You eat the cock?" Hitchhiker: "If it'll get me a few hundred miles across country, ure — I'll take a shot in the mouth."
Smith's argument for such jokes is that he wants to "preach tolerance by hiding it in humor." What's sad is that Smith has to keep justifying his right to parody prejudice and skewer male adolescents of all ages. Smith needs no defense, and neither does his movie, a blast of comic irreverence that serves as a starring vehicle for two stoner characters who had previously been relegated to the sidelines. Smith, 31, intends to retire Jay and Silent Bob and grow up. God and Alanis Morissette forbid.
The plot, such as it is, involves the boys' journey from Jersey to the evil empire of Hollywood to stop Miramax from making a film about their lives starring James Van Der Beek as Jay and Jason Biggs as Silent Bob. "I know you," says Jay on seeing Biggs. "You're the guy that fucked the pie."
Budgeted at $20 million, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back contains many remarkable things for a Smith movie. Nothing resembling a linear story, of course, and there are the usual fart, weed and dick jokes, not to mention the references to Star Wars and the musical stylings of Morris Day and the Time, but in this film the camera actually moves. For sex appeal, Pie girl Shannon Elizabeth suits up in leather to play Justice, the leader of Charlie's Angels-like diamond thieves named Sissy (Eliza Dushku), Chrissy (Ali Larter) and Missy (Jennifer Schwalbach). Jay is smitten with Justice. As he tells Silent Bob, whom he refers to by such terms of endearment as Lunch Box, Fat Fuck and Tubby Bitch, "She's the first woman I ever loved enough not to stick my hand down her pants." So much for sentiment. Actors from other Smith films show up, including Carlin, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Lee, Joey Lauren Adams and Chris Rock. Then there's the monkey, a smelly surprise to savor. Is there a point to all this? Not really. It's just an excuse for Smith to fire comic darts at everything from Hollywood — the scene in which Affleck and Damon rag on each ther's queer choices in roles while shooting a sequel to Good Will Hunting is a howl — to the Internet, which has allowed everyone in America to bitch about movies. In the film, one guy who calls himself "Magnolia Fan" disses our boys for spouting "baby-talk catchphrases like a third-rate Cheech and Chong or Bill and Ted. Fuck Jay and Silent Bob."
As ever, Mewes is a god of verbal incontinence. "There's a bunch of motherfuckers we don't even know calling us assholes on the Internet to a bunch of teenagers and guys who don't get laid," says Jay, who joins Silent Bob in posting this threat on a chat board: "We're gonna fuck your mothers while you watch and cry like little bitches."
What they actually do is less traumatic, but a whole lot funnier. A few critics, online and off, will no doubt castigate Smith for reveling in lowbrow antics that are beneath the newfound feeling he showed in Chasing Amy. They won't be wrong, but they'd also be missing the point. With Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Smith is saying goodbye to much of his gloriously misspent youth. He won't be the only one to miss it.