Review by Jason Godbey, Creative Director, Behind the Rabbit Productions
It’s been 26 years since writer/director Kevin Smith burst on to the indie film scene with his debut film, Clerks. In Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, he returns to the Askewniverse – the film continuity he built back in the ’90s- with callbacks and references to his previous films: Chasing Amy, Dogma, Clerks, Clerks 2, Mallrats, and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Lee, Brian O’Halloran, and Joey Lauren Adams all return to reprise their roles from various Askewniverse projects. Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith reprise their roles as the titular Jay and Silent Bob.
Jay & Silent Bob Reboot is just that- a reboot/sequel to 2001’s Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back with a plot that’s essentially the same. Jay and Bob go on a cross-country road trip to stop a movie about their comic book character likenesses Bluntman and Chronic from being made or in this case, rebooted. Along the way Jay meets Milly (Harley Quinn Smith), a daughter he never knew he had. The mother of whom is Justice (Shannon Elizabeth) Jay’s love interest from the aforementioned Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. Jay & Bob agree to take Milly and her friend Soapy (Treshelle Edmond) along to Chronic Con in Hollywood.
Similar to the first film, Jay and Silent Bob encounter a myriad of eccentric and fun characters on the journey including: Fred Armisen as their Uber driver, Molly Shannon as an airport worker, and Chris Jericho as a Klan Leader. In fact there are far too many cameos to call out. It seems like Smith got everyone he’s ever known or worked with to be in this movie. Fans who’ve stuck with Smith are rewarded with the moments when they can say “oh look, it’s that character,” and “hey, I remember her.” If you haven’t seen the film, I won’t spoil it, but all of your old favorites are back.
There’s also the metanarrative of Smith’s exploration of his own mythos, and of course in a great deal of fan service. It’s a victory lap for a filmmaker who not only plays one of the titular characters but also plays Kevin Smith the director making the reboot. He’s running the bases, and we’re all invited to high-five as he jogs into home. The meta is strong with this one complete with fourth wall breaking looks to camera. This is a reboot of a movie that was already really meta to begin with and it knows it.
At the heart of the movie is the relationship between Jay and Milly with Jay growing into the role of dad as they get to know each other. Through the vulgarity and immature humor, there’s a sentimentality to this movie. The characters have grown up. Even though they still curse like teenagers and utter absurdities like “snoochie boochies” and “snoogans.”
Kevin Smith has also grown as a filmmaker. Jay & Silent Bob Reboot is a more mature and technically sound film than the original. Smith moves the camera effectively. It’s well-edited (by Smith) and well-shot by cinematographer Yaron Levy. There’s also some really great looking art direction, set design and effects. Even though when speaking about his work, Smith is self-deprecating, we can see there’s definitely a vision to his work, and he’s making the film he wants to make.
The movie plays like an Askewniverse greatest hits album. Jay & Silent Bob Reboot is like his Avengers Endgame in the sense that it’s an culmination of all things Kevin Smith from his earliest films to his current status as a podcast personality and pop culture icon. If you’ve never seen a Kevin Smith film, you won’t get nearly as much out of this one. Even for those familiar with his work, multiple viewings are required to pull out all the references, call-backs, and cameos.
If you haven’t yet seen Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, I would highly recommend visiting the other films in the Askewniverse before seeing this one. If you’re a lifelong Kevin Smith fan, you’ve probably already seen this film. If you liked it, it’s definitely worth a rewatch.
For more on the making of Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, check out episode 604 of the podcast which features Jeff Annison, President of Legion M. You can also visit the Kevin Smith YouTube channel where you’ll find the Road to Reboot and the Reboot Roadshow web series.