Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith’s voice spoke to a lot of teenagers back in the 1990s. A lot of those teenagers have grown up and developed a keener sense of humor and a stronger desire for quality film-making. The guy can set-up some pretty good jokes, but he also doesn’t know when to quit, and even he admits a lot of his jokes are too easy. His film-making skills are amateurish for the most part. He has historically cast his friends in significant roles regardless of their acting ability. He has no appreciable skill in evoking good acting. And the pacing in his films is generally irritating, as he’ll throw in jokes for their own sake, regardless of whether or not it makes sense given the plot. I wonder if he had given his scripts to a good director who could edit and cast well, if we’d be talking about the good writer and not the embarrassing director.  All that said, I still like some of his movies despite myself.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: I remember laughing a lot when I saw this twelve years ago, but I honestly don’t remember 98% of the movie, and I was at a party at the time. I do remember most of the jokes wouldn’t make any sense unless you had already watched every Kevin Smith movie to that point, which seems like a lot of money to spend to cater to a really specific audience. That hyper amount of referential humor also usually isn’t as funny upon repeated viewings.

Grade: N/A

Clerks II: Funny story, I was going to see this in the theater with friends, but their car broke down on the way (a few days before they moved out of state) and we didn’t wind up seeing it for another year. My friends car was quite the appropriate analogy for this wreck of a film. The authenticity of the first movie was stripped away for a silly plot, the dick jokes are even more obvious, and the original actors haven’t improved their limited skills. What saves this movie from being a complete disaster are an earnest performance by Rosario Dawson and a funny cameo by Jason Lee. Completely pointless.

Grade: D

Mallrats: After the success of Clerks, Smith got a Hollywood budget and some Hollywood actors. And he used it for ninety minutes of dick jokes. Once again, Jason Lee saves this movie; he’s good for a few genuine laughs. But there’s too much in the way of unimaginative gross-out humor. The acting is subpar, highlighted by wooden performances by Claire Forlani, Shannon Doherty, and Ben Affleck. Jay & Silent Bob’s appearance is very forced.

Grade: C-

Chasing Amy: A promising step in the right direction for Smith, his first real attempt at a genuine story. And he hits some good notes here. Jason Lee is again hilarious, as is Dwight Ewell. There’s some good honest discussions about sexuality and jealousy. And I thought the movie’s climax was brutal and hilarious with a non-contrived ending. But Ben Affleck nearly ruins everything with his lead performance. His big speech spoke to the teenager me, but is laughable now, especially because of his delivery. And Joey Lauren Adams, while giving a good effort, has a voice so shrill it’s hard to listen to her for long.

Grade: B

Dogma: Easily Smith’s best directed movie, with a silly plot that isn’t dumbed down by a hundred dick jokes. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play two fallen angels who try to exploit a loophole and get back into Heaven. If they do, humanity’s existence will be negated. An abortion worker (Linda Fiorentino) tries to stop them. There are some inspired choices here by Smith. Chris Rock plays the 13th apostle. Alanis Morissette plays God. Alan Rickman plays the voice of God. George Carlin plays a Cardinal. Unfortunately, he couldn’t help himself and had an extended scene with a Shit Demon, which was gross and not funny. And Jay & Silent Bob are once again contrived and pointless. It’s hilarious that this movie caused controversy and boycotts. Believing Kevin Smith’s opinion of religion would influence the masses is laughable in the first place, but moreover the movie doesn’t take itself all that seriously.

Grade: B+

Clerks: Smith begged, borrowed, and stole to create this movie on a shoestring budget inside the same convenience store in which he was working at the time. The movie takes place over the course of about 18 hours, detailing the conversations and hijinks of two disgruntled workers. It received significant critical acclaim, which is curious considering the direction is not good and the acting is beyond horrendous. Or perhaps it’s because the critics found themselves laughing despite those things. There are a few inspired jokes, a few funny dick jokes, a few not-funny dick jokes, and some armchair philosophy that runs the gamut from amusing to banal. I think why I still love it is the good chemistry between Dante and Randal, and the amusing goings-on of drug-dealers Jay & Silent Bob, whose presence actually makes sense. I also, as Randal put, used to “work in a shitty video store,” and can empathize with every aspect of his work day. When I would close the store at midnight, sometimes my best friend would help before we’d head out to Perkins. And because we’re dorks, I’d ask him to wrangle out the door for me.

Grade: A-

Other Kevin Smith Movies You May Have Seen

Jersey Girl
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Cop Out
Red State

4 thoughts on “Kevin Smith”

  1. Kevin Smith is tricky for me. His movies always but always feature “realistic” dialogue that sounds nothing like anything anybody would ever say. He shoehorns a lot of actors into his movies that have no business being anywhere near a camera. That being said, anytime Mallrats or Clerks (or even Clerks II) is on, I’ll laugh at dick jokes for however long it holds my attention.

    Still baffled by the love for Chasing Amy, though. That movie is a preachy, loud, poorly acted mess. Jason Lee does what he can, but the lead couple is unlikable and Ben Affleck irritates me to no end.

    1. I’m with you on Chasing Amy. It ranks really high up on my list of movies I hate. I saw it on the campus movie channel which ended up cutting out the last 15 minutes and I have never even considered trying to see that last little bit.

  2. I was nervous to open this because I still believe Clerks is one of the ten worst movies I’ve ever seen, including those riffed on by MST3K. I can’t imagine a non-porn with worse acting, and I tried to give it a second chance a few years ago and hated it even more than I remembered.

    Then, he outdid himself with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I’ve said this online before, but you don’t get back at critics by making fun of them – you get back at them by making a fucking good movie at some point in your career.

    I didn’t hate Dogma (the Shit Demon excepted. Jesus Christ, Kevin). I think Kevin Smith has some decent talent that he’s never utilized. He’s also a fascinating speaker and has a lot of useful commentary on the business. He’s got very little in common with his simplistic, vulgarian characters and films.

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