As a former Kevin Smith fanboy, I’d say Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) was where the writer-director-actor first jumped (or humped) the shark. It’s not that I have a problem with the central premise, which sees the eponymous stoners setting off on a road-trip to Hollywood, in order to sabotage a movie based on their comic book alter-egos… in fact, I think Jason “Jay” Mewes is one of the most consistently amusing actors in the View Askew stable, and I was happy to see him get more screentime as the quasi-romantic lead here… what I hate is the way that it pulls in so many other characters from previous Smith flicks (and Good Will Hunting), and reduces them to one-note, catchphrase-spouting caricatures of themselves. I was particularly offended by the way he brought back Joey Lauren Adam for a twenty-second cameo as ‘Alyssa Jones’, just to have her mock Mallrats and Chasing Amy! I know this is supposed to be taken as light-hearted self-deprecation, but to me it just smacks of fan disservice… a slap in the face to anyone who was foolish enough to care about these characters and films in the first place. Feh!
And it’s a shame, because if he’d just kept the reality level a little firmer, and stopped being so damn self-reflexive with all the fourth-wall-breaking winks, it could easily have been a favourite of mine, thanks to the genuinely exciting action sequences, and the inclusion of a bad-ass “girl gang” as the major antagonists. Their prolonged slo-mo dance sequences, sapphic undertones (made far more explicit in the deleted scenes), snarling attitude, and skin-tight pleather cat-suits may have been a deliberate parody of penis-pandering “bad-girl” clichés… but, that doesn’t stop them also being the highlight of the movie (and the only thing saving it from the recycling pile at this point).
As Jay’s potential love-interest ‘Justice’, Shannon Elizabeth gives a surprisingly funny and endearing performance, ably proving that she’s more than just a pretty face and smokin’ hot body. Apparently it was also her idea to give the character glasses, because “Justice is blind”… which is kinda literal, but she looks great and it gives her more business to do, so fair enough. After all the years Eliza Dushku spent playing ‘Faith’ in Buffy, she could probably do this sort of thing in her sleep, but it’s still fun to see her flexing her muscles, and using military jargon. Ali Larter is saddled with a rather off-putting retro hairstyle in her early scenes, but she manages to rise above it… and should be saluted for the part she plays in selling one of the most elaborate fart jokes in cinema history. The final member of the foxy foursome is Smith’s real-life baby-mama, Jennifer Schwalbach, who straight-up insisted she be cast in the role, despite her total lack of acting experience… but she’s far from a weak-link, either in terms of her performance or her appearance. Apparently she also directed a “making of” documentary about the movie, but it was too long to be included with the DVD release, so… I ain’t seen it.
Other actresses making cameo appearances included Renée Humphrey as ‘Tricia Jones’ (Alyssa’s sister, from Mallrats), Shannen Doherty as ‘Herself’ in a Scream parody, and Carrie Fisher as a ‘Nun’ who picks up Jay & Silent Bob while they’re hitchhiking.