Before any of you Kevin Smith disciples out there send me hate mail, let it be known that I am a fan of his steadfastly independent and resolutely low brow brand of comedy. I've enjoyed all of his movies in some capacity (yes, even 'Jersey Girl'), and I find him to be both a likable and affable fellow. That said, I've always found 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' one of his less successful efforts, a basic one-joke movie that plays like a filthy, sex-obsessed version of 'Pee-Wee's Big Adventure' -- only without the subversive social satire.
If you don't know the characters Jay (Jason Mewes) and his "heterosexual lifemate" Silent Bob (Smith), you might want to ditch this review and go rent 'Clerks' and 'Dogma' first -- you'll likely be lost in 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' without them. Okay, back now? Alright, in 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,' our titular heroes discover that a comic book that was based on their real-life personas is about to be made into a big-budget Hollywood movie. For reasons known only to students of Smith's "View Askew" universe, this royally pisses off the dynamic duo (I would have thought they'd be flattered), so they take to the road to bring a halt to the offensive production. Making enough pitstops along the way for ten other road movies, their non-stop, madcap adventures leave no Hollywood icon untarnished and redefine the phrase "stupid, vulgar and tasteless." God bless 'em.
I do like Jay and Silent Bob as characters. They've always enlivened Smith's films in short, contained bursts, but I'm not entirely sold on them as full-fledged movie stars. Since Bob never speaks it is hard to get annoyed by him (though Smith's somewhat limited facial expressions run out of steam early on), but Jay is another matter. Again, I find Mewes funny, but like much of his other work, Smith seems to think that any joke, no matter how feeble, becomes funnier if riddled with swear words. After only twenty minutes, I lost count at the number of times the words "fuck," "twat," "bitch" and "suck this" were uttered, and after a while whatever power such vulgarities possess is lost. Sure, it warrants a nervous giggle to watch Jay attempt to "go down" on Carrie Fisher dressed as a nun, but it's not exactly truly inspired comedy. Compared to the more subversive, incendiary themes Smith plundered in the controversial and far-superior 'Dogma' and even 'Chasing Amy,' I'd say 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' sees Smith taking far too many easy potshots.
Still, 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' can be fun, especially if you are a film nerd. Which is why it is no surprise that the film wasn't a mainstream hit, unable to break out beyond his core audience. Loaded with in-jokes, Hollywood references, and featuring a new celebrity cameo every few seconds (including Fisher, Will Ferrell, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, George Carlin, Seann William Scott, Jon Stewart, Mark Hamill, Chris Rock, Jamie Kennedy, Wes Craven, Gus Van Sant, Morris Day and even Judd Nelson!), the movie itself is almost indistinguishable from one of those VH-1 Pop Culture trivia specials. I can't recommend 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' to those unfamiliar with Smith's work -- you really have tp see 'Clerks,' 'Chasing Amy' and 'Dogma' first -- but if you enjoy his brand of humor, this one is worth checking out.
At first glance, 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' may seem like an odd early title for a next-gen home video format -- though the movie does have a bright, colorful look, it hardly screams "high def." Indeed, likely the reason Buena Vista chose Jay and Silent Bob to help them inaugurate their first wave of Blu-ray disc titles is because the film's audience is squarely the kind of male, tech-savvy early adopter (read: film geek) that usually helps a new format achieve success. Whatever the case, what we ultimately have here is a fairly good-looking transfer of a film that is not the kind of demo material you'd probably choose to show off your new Blu-ray player.
Presented in 2.35:1 letterbox and 1080p/MPEG-2 video, the source material for 'Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back' does have a few problems. Though the print is in good shape overall, especially the rich blacks, I did notice a few white specs throughout as well as some darker blemishes. Nothing severe, but the image certainly is not pristine like most of the masters have been for recent Blu-ray and HD DVD releases. Colors are very well saturated, perhaps too much -- sometimes fleshtones looked a little clogged up, and hues a tad smeary for my taste. That leaves the transfer appearing artificial, especially with the reds, which can be so vivid you can't help but be distracted by their almost supernatural-like richness.
On the plus side, detail is generally good. Though shadow delineation is not the best I've seen on Blu-ray, with the fall-off to black pretty steep (rendering the finest of details imperceptible), generally the transfer looks very three-dimensional throughout. Compression artifacts are also not a major problem, though every once in a while, even at a good viewing distance away from the screen, occasional bits of what looked like noise of various sizes were clearly visible. Again, is a perfectly fine and consistently pleasing transfer, but I'd put it in the middle rung of releases I've seen thus far on Blu-ray.
Buena Vista offers up an uncompressed, 48kHz/16-bit PCM 5.1 surround track for 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,' and given the film's surprisingly lively sound design, it comes across quite well on Blu-ray.
I wasn't anticipating much from this mix, which is perhaps why it exceeded my low expectations. There is a surprising amount of surround activity throughout, with lots of fun sound effects bouncing around the rear channels. Sure, it is often totally gimmicky (on purpose), but technically, imaging is pretty transparent. There is even a bit of genuine atmosphere at times, both with ambient sound effects (such as the clatter of machines at a burger joint or the hum of a van engine) and John Venable's spirited score. Dynamic range is also a cut above what a film like this probably needs, with fairly punchy low bass and well-recorded dialogue that's always clear and well-balanced in the mix. No, this one won't bring the house down, but 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' is anything but a limp mute of a soundtrack on Blu-ray.
Buena Vista released a two-disc special edition DVD of 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' in early 2002, and it was absolutely jam-packed with extras. Though they may have been a bit too much of a good thing (Kevin Smith doesn't seem to understand the word "overkill" when it comes to DVD), all of those goodies are long gone on this Blu-ray release, which will undoubtedly disappoint his longtime fans.
All that's left is a single audio commentary, with Smith, co-star Jason Mewes and producer Scott Mosier. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a hit or miss affair that ultimately wears out its welcome. Certainly, Smith and Mewes are commentary veterans, having recorded a ton of them for all of Smith's DVD releases. Here, however, their timing seems a bit off, with Smith hawking his own website a bit too much, as well as calling on Mewes to fill in production gaps as he often forgets key names and antecedents. And given the chattiness of these two, Mosier is left a mere observer, which makes his presence seem a bit unnecessary. While diehard Smith fans will undoubtedly dig this commentary if they haven't already heard it, casual viewers should be warned that it may grate on the nerves.
Though I'm a Kevin Smith fan, I never thought 'Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back' was one of his best efforts. More of a one-off lark of a movie, it lacks the emotional punch or perceptive social satire of 'Clerks' and 'Chasing Amy.' Still, it has its moments, and fans of the Smith universe should enjoy it. Why it was chosen as one of Buena Vista's inaugural Blu-ray releases is a bit puzzling, as it is not exactly an audio-visual tour de force, and given the lack of extras you better hold on to that two-disc standard DVD set. Still, it delivers on the bottom line, so if you are a fan of Smith you might want to give this one a rent.