“”Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,”” the fifth installment in Kevin Smith’s proposed “”New Jersey Trilogy,”” is a cinematic garage sale that allows the director to sweep up any and all debris collected in his psyche since the release of “”Clerks”” way back in 1994. As is the case with any good clearance, there are priceless gems for the taking, and they illicit fits of excitement when they surface, but you have to sift through too much broken junk to find them. It’s also a fine way for Smith to cleanse his palate after the overachieving Sunday-school sermon that was “”Dogma”” and get back to his bread and butter: dick and fart jokes.
And who better to shepherd Smith back to his point of origin – Red Bank, NJ, for those who paid attention – than the connoisseurs of everything View Askew: Jay and his hetero lifemate, Silent Bob. Smith swears “”Strike Back”” signifies the end of Jay and Silent Bob’s memorable film careers, but you have to wonder if he has the strength to put these characters to rest. Relegated to scene-stealing cameos in “”Mallrats,”” “”Clerks”” and “”Chasing Amy,”” foulmouthed, pot smoking horn dog Jay (Jason Mewes) and his periodically-mute partner Silent Bob (Smith) graduated to the next level in “”Dogma”” with more screen time and lines that actually furthered the plot. “”Strike Back”” is the next obvious step, though it’s not necessarily one taken forward. A vulgar throwback to the Hope/Crosby road movies, “”Strike Back”” finds Jay and Silent Bob traveling from their home state of Jersey to the backlots of Hollywood. As it turns out, “”Amy”” entrepreneur Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) has sold the film rights for his “”Bluntman & Chronic”” comic book – which is loosely based on Jay and Silent Bob – to Miramax, and the studio greenlit a big-budget production.Before it even begins, though, the pending “”Bluntman & Chronic”” film provides more than enough fodder for a new wave of hate-mongers who prowl the Internet, namely pimple-faced geeks who slam anything they can type about on a series of movie gossip websites. Jay and Bob wrongfully assume that if they shut down the movie, it will stop these cretins from writing mean things about them on the Web. So they set off for the left coast, managing to steal an orangutan, assist a team of gorgeous jewel thieves, dance with Morris Day and the Time (yes, the band from Prince’s “”Purple Rain””) and fall in love along the way. It’s creative, sure, but it’s also a little convoluted, imbecilic and nonsensical.Of course it is, fool. It’s a movie starring a one-track-minded hard-on and a mime from the Garden State, an obvious joke that even this movie manages to point out in one of its many “”wink-wink, nudge-nudge,”” asides. Smith knows it’s goofy, but acknowledging it makes it acceptable for him. And he’s right, but barely. In Smith’s script, curse words and pop culture references trip over one another on their way to flat, uninspired punchlines. Most of the director’s surprises are provided by an Altman-esque parade of cameos made by Smith’s role players – George Carlin, Ben Affleck, Lee, Matt Damon, Shannen Doherty, Chris Rock and many more. And Mewes finally gets the chance to carry a film, though by the end we begin to see how effective his lewd character is when taken in short bursts. Yet the more I think about the film’s twisted scenarios, the funnier I think they are. Bob’s wordless interactions with the diaper-wearing ape. A bizarre encounter with the Scooby Doo gang that’s bound to be more entertaining in five minutes than the entire Freddie Prinze Jr. production awaiting us next summer. Affleck and Damon’s hilarious send up of everything “”Matt and Ben.”” All the scenes on the Hollywood lot, in fact, where Smith gets to behave like a kid in a candy store. Even the jokes reserved for die-hard Smith fans, those aware of his affinity for Daredevil and his dislike for Paul Thomas Anderson’s “”Magnolia,”” are there. It’s all there. There’s just so much of it.That’s why Smith’s movies tend to work so much better on home video, the true mark of a cult director shunned by the mainstream. You have more time to sift through the aforementioned “”broken junk”” and find the value in it. I have little doubt I’ll enjoy “”Jay and Silent Bob”” more upon further viewing, and especially in the comfort of my own home with a cold beer or six in hand. In the end, “”Jay and Silent Bob”” is exactly the type of film Smith needed to make to send off the characters that truly embody the two sides of his internal coin. Smith has professed his limitless dedication to the tasteless duo in his many comic books, animated prime time television shows and the five films that introduced them to us. His love of these characters is pure, and his heart is pinned to this film’s sleeve. We understand completely, Kevin, and we allow it. Now, let’s see what else you have in that trenchcoat.Final Grade: B-By Sean O’ConnellAug. 24, 2001