'Jay And Silent Bob Reboot' Review: A Satisfying But Clumsy Return To Form For Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith burst onto the filmmaking scene in 1994 with the Sundance-selected indie comedy Clerks. No one knew that this film was just the beginning of what would become the View Askewniverse, an interconnected universe where nearly all of Kevin Smith's movies (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) would exist, allowing for the kind of references and characters crossovers that are now a staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It's been over a decade since Kevin Smith got to play in his cinematic world, both as a filmmaker and as the second half of the stoner duo known as Jay and Silent Bob. But now he's returned, both in front of the camera and behind it, with Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. The Kevin Smith many people fell in love with in high school has mostly returned to form with this latest installment of the View Askewniverse. The movie is a satisfying, nostalgic sequel/reboot that delivers more heart than you might expect (and maybe more than it needs), but it can be a bit clumsy in its execution and there are many jokes that fall flat. Most importantly though, it's the kind of movie Jay and Silent Bob fans were hoping for.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot isn't shy about leaning into the fact that they're basically treading the same path as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It's another live-action cartoon that borders on straight-up parody with Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) constantly falling into zany mishaps and making plenty of dick jokes (though not really any fart jokes this time) along the way as they take a road trip stop a reboot of the "old campy" Bluntman and Chronic movie. It just so happens it's a gritty reboot called Bluntman v Chronic, and it's being directed by none other than Kevin Smith himself. That's right, Smith finally appears as himself in the View Askewniverse, and he's preparing to shoot a key scene for the movie at Chronic-Con, a convention dedicated to the original Bluntman and Chronic movie. And that's where Jay and Silent Bob have to go to stop the movie.

The road trip formula of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is utilized yet again, allowing our duo to run into a cavalcade of familiar faces and fun cameos. However, the actual road trip itself doesn't feel quite as logically plotted narratively as the one in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. This might be the movie's biggest problem, because it makes certain scenes and pit stops feel forced, and sometimes the tangents along the way slow everything down. It takes certain leaps in logic that you simply have to go along with to continue enjoying the meta gags and Jay and Silent Bob tomfoolery along the way. Thankfully there's plenty to enjoy in that regard, but there are also one too many jokes that just fall flat.

The movie works best when it directly emulates and repeats beats from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. A stop by Brodie's Secret Stash brings back Jason Lee as Brodie Bruce from Mallrats is easily one of the best throwbacks in the movie. The titular duo learns what a reboot even is and how it differs from a remake. It's these kind of self-referential bits that land firmly, though the movie can become a little too cheeky with these from time-to-time, especially in the third act.

What doesn't work as well are some of the new characters and comedy beats as Jay and Silent Bob make their way to Hollywood. Encounters with characters played by Molly Shannon, Fred Armisen, Kate Micucci, and Kevin Smith's wife Jennifer Schwalbach (not reprising her role from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) have some big misses when it comes to landing punchlines. There are some funny gems among the duds, such as when Silent Bob's weight loss is addressed by Jay when the two are trying to catch a plane to Hollywood. This includes a funny reference to Kevin Smith's famous airplane seat debacle when he was still a big guy. The new nicknames that Jay has given to Silent Bob since his weight loss bring the laughs. Another sequence involving wrestler Chris Jericho in a Ku Klux Klan rally offers a hilarious Glengarry Glen Ross bit that no one saw coming (and mostly seemed to fly over the heads of the rest of the audience in my screening). But even with that, the sequence itself seems unnecessary.

Again, Kevin Smith feels most comfortable when he's using characters, references and details from his previous movies to crack jokes. But when the movie brings Kevin Smith's real life daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, in to play the daughter that Jay's former lover Justice (Shannon Elizabeth) never told him about, we start to get too much new stuff that doesn't work nearly as well as all the nostalgic comedy. That includes a new girl gang comprised of Smith as Millennium (Millie) Falcon, Treshelle Edmond as her deaf best friend Soapy, Aparna Brielle as a Muslim character named Jihad, and Alice Wen as a Chinese international podcaster named Shen Yu. While the movie makes a joke about these characters being brought in as part of the reboot formula adding youth and diversity to the proceedings, it doesn't really do anything more than that with these characters (at least not until the third act), which makes the self-deprecating humor about it feel less like a clever joke and more like an excuse for existence.

On the acting side of things, Smith's daughter is infinitely better in this movie than she was in the massively disappointing and nonsensical Yoga Hosers, but the surprising emotional beats from the arc between Jay and his daughter feel out of place in a movie like this. It's clear Kevin Smith was feeling very sentimental about fatherhood and life in general while writing this movie, obviously inspired by his real life heart attack. While Harley Quinn Smith and Jason Mewes pull off some decent dramatic exchanges throughout the movie, it slows the movie down and never fully feels earned in this kind of goofy movie.

As for what works the least, there are times when Kevin Smith shoehorns in references and moments that feel tacked on simply so he could assemble all his old friends and characters in one movie. The return of Matt Damon as Loki feels particularly out of place. It's unnecessarily used as a transition between two scenes, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the movie. It's all an excuse to have Matt Damon make a more overt reference to Dogma, take a crack at Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, make some punny jokes about The Bourne Identity, and then literally introduce the next scene through voiceover. If Loki was telling this whole story himself and continued narrating throughout, this might have made sense, but as it stands, it's one of the clunkiest parts of the movie.

Perhaps the best part of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is a scene that almost never happened at all. After years of animosity, Kevin Smith famously reunited with Ben Affleck to get him in this movie. Affleck appears as Holden McNeil, the creator of Bluntman and Chronic, and the lead character from Chasing Amy. After getting reacquainted, Jay and Silent Bob learn a valuable life lesson from Holden, and surprisingly it packs an emotional punch that actually works. Maybe it's because Ben Affleck really can be a good actor when he puts himself into a role, or maybe it's because this scene feels inspired by the journey that all three of these guys have gone on since they last appeared in a movie together. Either way, this scene was both funny and touching. And yes, there are more than enough references to the fact that Ben Affleck played Batman.

Once the movie reaches the third act at Chronic-Con, things start to get pretty chaotic. The real Kevin Smith becomes a character in the movie, and the meta nature of the comedy reaches full tilt. It mostly works, and it's just as outlandish and ridiculous as the scenes when Jay and Silent Bob actually made it to Hollywood in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but it never feels like it matches the hilarity of its predecessor. A character twist out of nowhere really spins the third act into absolute insanity, and it all feels pretty messy. There are still some delightful gags throughout the entirety of the Chronic-Con sequence, which does a great job of lampooning the comic convention scene, but the movie still feels like it's trying to bite off a lot more than it can chew.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot's biggest flaw is that it never feels quite as polished or sharp as Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (a movie that was already a little clumsy in its own regard). I'm not sure if that's because Smith has lost a step or two as comedy has evolved since his heyday as a filmmaker or if Smith put this movie together in a much shorter window and didn't get to really hone in on delivering the best version of the script. No matter the reason, the movie is still undoubtedly enjoyable for longtime fans of Kevin Smith's work, and I found myself fairly pleased with the results. It ultimately relies on nostalgia for some of the best parts, and gets a little flimsy when it strays from being a full-on reboot of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but it's kind of a miracle that this movie exists, and it gets a lukewarm pass from me./Film Rating: 6.5 out of 10