It has been well documented but it is worth saying again; cult hero and slacker icon Kevin Smith is lucky to still be alive. Last year, the filmmaker walked offstage after a stand-up set in LA and collapsed. Any heart attack is bad enough, but in Smith’s instance it couldn’t have been much worse. His left anterior descending artery was completely blocked: what’s known in slightly harsh medical circles as ‘a widow-maker’.
With that in mind, it would be understandable if Smith might have wanted to shape up, ship out and leave his old life behind. Admirers of his crude high jinks will be pleased to note that whilst he has indeed shaped up, he has not shipped out. With Jay and Silent Bob Reboot he returns to familiar territory with the bit between his teeth for a wild windmill swing at Hollywood and its penchant for franchises and remakes.
On the surface, not much seems to have changed in Jay and Silent Bob’s world. Their stoner game remains cranked all the way up to 11 and they are blissfully trapped in their own big, fat blunt-induced bubble — they covet DVDs (in particular, the much-maligned Method Man and Redman vehicle, How High) while Netflix and app culture is alien to them.
After an acquittal from drug trafficking charges, the duo face a separate legal charge from a movie company claiming they no longer hold the intellectual property rights to their names. Cue a zoot-powered zinger from Jay: “This guy’s lying, your honour. Me and Silent Bob don’t own any property and we’ve never been intellectual about anything.” Welcome back, guys.
Furious over the loss of their names, they visit old Mallrats pal Brodie (Jason Lee), who explains that Bluntman and Chronic, the comic book characters for which they are the inspiration is not just being remade, but ‘rebooted’. It dawns on the duo that they must travel to ‘Chronic’ Con (yes, really) and thwart Kevin Smith from making “another shitty movie about Jay and Silent Bob” and thus get their names back. What ensues is a journey that takes in old flames, the Klu Klux Klan, Chris Hemsworth (Avengers: Endgame), James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek) and miles of bad road.
Reboot is a fine addition to View Askewniverse — Smith’s fictional universe that stretches from 1994’s Clerks via Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and more — with enough maturity to entice newcomers and enough trademark buffoonery to resonate with old fans. The list of returning actors for spirited cameos, such as Matt Damon, Val Kilmer and Ben Affleck is also a timely reminder as to the pull of this man’s pen.
Fourth walls are broken, puns are spun, and self-referential quips fire out with all the unbridled thrill of a dopamine addict lapping up social media likes. Meta mayhem is everywhere. This is writ-large and ‘clever silly’, but Smith has an innate understanding of what his audience wants. Not only does he honour that, but he offers something more. Maybe it’s because he very nearly wasn’t going to be around to make this film, but he sprinkles some subtle food for thought, such as the duty of older generations to pass on the baton of knowledge and the travails of parenthood.
This is a better film than many fusty critics would lead you to believe. The snobs. Reboot is a rip-roaring romp that doesn’t profess to be anything other than a lot of fun, Jay and Silent Bob-style. And that it is. Snoochie boochies, dude.
- Director: Kevin Smith
- Starring: Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Matt Damon
- Release Date: 29 November 2019