ReView Askew: Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019)

In the thirteen years since Clerks II, Kevin Smith’s career made a number of different turns, and to go over each of his ensuing films would be pretty exhaustive. I think the most influential event for him in that time was the birth of the SModcast, a podcast hosted by Smith and longtime producer and friend Scott Mosier, where they would basically talk for hours on end about whatever was on their minds. Its popularity would eventually lead to even more different podcasts hosted by Smith, forming the SModcast podcast network. Now the man who could never stop himself from talking in interviews and live events had a brand-new outlet to gab on and on for multiple hours a week on various different shows he’d co-host with Mosier, Jason Mewes, his wife, Ralph Garman, and more. Kevin Smith had built his career upon writing scripts filled with characters who were pretty much all versions of himself, communicating his likes, his dislikes, his theories, his profane thoughts, and so forth. Sure, there were stories and characters involved, but they were all basically vessels for Smith’s personal thoughts on things. But now he didn’t need to spend months making a multi-million dollar movie to broadcast his feelings on a certain subject. All he needed was a microphone, and he could record a podcast and release it that day to his thousands of fans. Podcasting proved to be the perfect creative outlet for Smith to express himself, so what did he need to keep making movies for?

The 2010s is when Smith’s filmography starts to get weird, as he surprisingly started to dip into the horror genre. First was Red State, a movie Smith had written for a while, and one I was very intrigued by: a thriller featuring antagonists based on the Westboro Baptist Church, the extremist religious hate group best known for picketing anywhere they’ll get media attention with their “God Hates Fags” signs. I remember being disappointed by the movie, but it’s been forever since I’ve seen it. As well as being a big departure for Smith thematically, Red State was also the first film he financed on his own, as he pretty much divorced himself from the major Hollywood system after this. Without needing to cater to a mass audience outside of his fans anymore, Smith could basically get away with whatever weird shit he wanted. Enter Tusk, a movie born entirely from a joke. The premise (a horror film about a man who gets turned into a walrus) started as a dumb bit Smith and Mosier came up with during an episode of SModcast, with Smith calling up his fans to tweet #WalrusYes if they wanted them to really make the movie. So, of course, his listeners happily endorsed him, and he actually went through it. Tusk, and its ensuing spin-off Yoga Hosers, were movies that acted as even bigger inside jokes than Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, as they were filled with easter eggs and references to Kevin Smith’s different podcasts, as Smith was more or less embracing that whatever he makes, be it film or podcast, he’s doing it for his already well-insulated fans who will understand and rejoice at any obscure callback he tosses in. This leads us to Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, an in-joke stuffed inside another in-joke, a movie made exclusively for the Kevin Smith faithful, even more so than Strike Back was. I saw this in theaters when it came out in a room filled with View Askew-heads, complete with a surprise appearance by Kevin Smith to introduce it, and the audience absolutely ate it up. It’s the absolute ideal setting to watch this movie in, as even though consciously I didn’t think it was very good, I still found the entire theater experience to be pretty positive. And after seeing it again, I’ll say that that was probably the only context you should watch this movie and not want to turn it off after the first half hour, if not earlier. Continue reading “ReView Askew: Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019)”

736. Step Brother from the Same Planet

Original airdate: November 20, 2022

The premise: Homer is shocked to find Abe has a new long-time girlfriend Blythe, and he’s moving in with her. Even more surprising is Abe’s loving relationship with her young adopted son Calvin. Extremely jealous at how much better Abe treats this kid than he ever did him, Homer starts a bitter, childish rivalry with his new sort-of step brother. Continue reading “736. Step Brother from the Same Planet”

ReView Askew: Clerks II (2006)

After Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Kevin Smith was ready to walk away from his Askewniverse and try something new. His next film was Jersey Girl, starring Ben Affleck, a recent widower who has to deal with raising his daughter alone after his wife (Jennifer Lopez) dies in childbirth. A new father at the time, this was clearly inspired by Smith’s own experiences with parenthood. As I was getting into Kevin Smith movies in high school, I watched this one too, and didn’t really care for it. From what I recall, it felt like just a nondescript dramedy, with Smith’s unique hallmark writing touches either dulled or not present at all. It even ends with Affleck racing through traffic to get to his daughter’s school play, one of the biggest cliches in the book. The reaction was not great. It barely grossed its budget (making it a bomb, considering marketing is typically double that), and critics were less than kind to it. Some of the blame for the audience rejection of the film was laid on “Bennifer,” and the general public’s exhaustion of the endless media coverage of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s relationship. They only dated for two years, but it seemed like the two of them were absolutely everywhere at the time. A year prior, they starred together in the infamous box office disaster Gigli, and finally officially split up after Jersey Girl finished shooting. Smith even reduced Lopez’s part in editing in response to Gigli‘s failure, but it didn’t really affect much. Affleck was kind of in the doldrums through a good part of the 2000s, until revitalizing his career as a writer/director with the likes of Gone Baby Gone and The Town.

Most likely the deepest cut of all for Smith in the fallout of Jersey Girl was reaction from his fan base, who were largely not pleased. It seems understandable on the surface; while Smith was a husband and new father, a huge chunk of his fans were still younger teens and twenty-somethings, so a drama about having a kid was going to be a tough sell for them, let alone a PG-13 movie with very little of the stuff they love from his previous works. Smith was in a tough position. He had “officially” concluded the Askewniverse, but returning to his fan-favorite characters seemed like a wise financial move. He had considered doing a Clerks sequel for a while, but what triggered it for him was the “Snowball Effect” documentary about the making of Clerks, shot for the 10th anniversary deluxe DVD set, which came out around the same time as Jersey Girl. Shooting interview footage for the piece further emphasized to Smith just how much his premiere film meant to him, and enticed him to return to that world and continue Dante and Randal’s adventures. So from that, we got Clerks II, a sequel fans had been waiting for over a decade since the original. As for me, I don’t remember exactly when I first watched Clerks, but it couldn’t have been more than a year before the follow-up came out, and even in that short amount of time being a Smith fan, I was psyched. I remember liking both movies pretty equally, maybe even giving a slighter edge to Clerks II, but that might have just been from the novelty of it being a brand new movie. While mostly enjoyable in its own right, Clerks II unavoidably sits in the shadow of the original, ultimately feeling safer and more formulaic than its transgressive predecessor. Continue reading “ReView Askew: Clerks II (2006)”