It's been 13 years since Jay and Silent Bob appeared on the big screen in Clerks 2, and 18 years since the movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which sent the stoner duo on a cross-country trip to--of all things--stop a movie from being made. Now, nearly two decades later, Jay and Silent Bob are back to try to stop a reboot of that movie by rebooting themselves.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is so true to its title that you can't help but laugh. In the film, the titular Jay and Bob--portrayed once again by Jason Mewes and writer/director Kevin Smith, respectively--are essentially rebooting the same story told in Strike Back. They're going to Hollywood--again--to stop a movie from being made about the Bluntman and Chronic comic book characters--again. In the grand old fashion of reboot culture, though, the film updates things just enough to make you contemplate paying to see the same story a second time.
Is it a story you actually should revisit, though? Honestly, that depends on how you feel about Smith's movies. For those who grew up on a steady diet of films like Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma, Reboot feels a lot like catching up with an old friend, seeing what they've made of themselves after all these years. It's filled to the brim with celebrity cameos, nods to Smith's other works, and more than a few lines of dialogue recycled from previous movies.
Beneath all that, though, is a sweet and very human story. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is about growing up and realizing when it's time to let the next generation take over. When it comes to this film, that generation is a group of young millennial women they befriend on their journey to Hollywood, one of which Jay learns is his daughter.
These women look at Jay and Bob as relics of a bygone era--the '90s--that don't fit in as well as they think they do. It's an idea the stoner duo has never been confronted with before, and watching them learn to integrate themselves into a society that doesn't revolve around standing outside of Quick Stop is both funny and fascinating to watch.
Jay and Silent Bob were the creations of a young Kevin Smith looking to, above all else, make his mark on the world. Now, he's 25 years into a career and over a year away from a heart attack that nearly took his life. Smith's outlook on the world has changed, and it shows in how he approached not just Jay and Bob, but all of the film's returning characters.
Most notably, Ben Affleck returns to a Smith project for the first time since Clerks 2. He appears in a very memorable scene as his Chasing Amy character Holden MacNeil, which serves as the emotional core of the movie. It's this moment that gives Jay the final push to emotional maturity he needs. Honestly, it's some of the best work Affleck has done in years, and Mewes more than holds up his end of the bargain as he finally grows up before the audience's eyes.
Another standout is Smith's own daughter, Harley Quinn Smith. The young actress only has a handful of credits that aren't from her dad's movies--including a small role in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood--but she shines here. She is able to switch back and forth from venomous to incredibly vulnerable at the drop of a hat and manages to be one of the movie's most engaging characters, even more so than the titular stars.
The rest of the principal cast--practically all newcomers to the world of Kevin Smith--do admirably in their roles, helping to make this reboot feel like something new. Still, even with how good they are and how sweet the film is, it's far from perfect. While this is the best Smith has been as a writer and director since his 2011 horror movie Red State, it also suffers from a lot of the setbacks that tend to come with his work.
First and foremost, the cameos are way too over-indulgent. Practically every scene has a familiar face or nine jammed in, as if they're living Easter eggs. Even Smith himself plays a second role in the movie as, you guessed it, filmmaker Kevin Smith. While some of the appearances are funny--like Chris Hemsworth playing a hologram of himself--practically none of them add anything to the film other than the ability to briefly show them in the trailer to convince people to see the movie.
At least, thankfully, those that appear as the characters they originated in Smith's other movies tend to move the story along, though there are some notable absences from the director's rogues gallery of miscreants.
Another major thing going against it is something that you might not expect to be a letdown in a Kevin Smith movie: the dialogue. While the writer/director has always been upfront about not considering himself a visual filmmaker, the dialogue has been where his work shined. And while a lot of Reboot's dialogue is great, some of it is pretty bad. So much of the film is recycled lines from previous movies that point out again and again how silly it is that you're paying to see the same film a second time. The first couple of times it happened, it was funny. Once it happens over a dozen times, though, the novelty has worn off.
Ultimately, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is the best kind of homecoming a Kevin Smith fan could hope for. It's not perfect, but does reintroduce this cinematic universe that so many held dear in the '90s and early '00s. It also manages to be more than just a greatest hits montage, which Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back often felt like. There's a real story here, buried under the dirty humor and parade of cameos. That's reassuring, given that Smith has already announced plans to follow this movie with Clerks 3.