Tag Archives: Rosario Dawson

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

Chris Columbus

Columbus just seems to me like a completely nondescript director, as far as that’s possible. His movies are generally easily digestable and the actors always seem to be having a good time, but there’s nothing about the direction that is all that innovative or special. The only trademark I can see is that he likes to go for some genuine but easy tearjerker moments in otherwise light movies.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch: I really disliked this when I was ten years old, and I haven’t seen it since. However, I like the first movie and I’ve heard good things about this one, so I’ll have to give it another shot someday.

Grade: N/A

Home Alone: Holy crap was this movie popular. I liked it fine enough as a kid, and it’s fairly inoffensive as an adult. But Macaulay Culkin is precocious and obnoxious, so it’s hard to root for him against the cartoonish villians (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). In fact, the whole move is cartoonish, and not all that funny.

Grade: D

Adventures in Babysitting: I think it’s awesome that Vincent D’Onofrio played in this movie the same year as his role in Full Metal Jacket. I would probably need something lighthearted too after that movie. Anyway, Elizabeth Shue agrees to babysit three kids before taking them all in her car to go to Chicago and (surprise!) wacky hijinx ensue. One of the first movies I ever watched twice in the same day. I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, but I have enough fond memories of it that I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy it if I watched it today. I may just keep my fond memories, though.

Grade: C-

Gremlins: After a boy gets a cute furry bat for Christmas, he fucks everything up by spilling water on it and feeding it “after midnight,” whatever that means. It produces many gremlins, which terrorize the town, kill a few side characters, and do some hilarious shit like get blown up in microwaves. Creepy at times, hilarious at times, and a bit slow at times. The actors appear to be having fun.

Grade: B

Rent: I wonder if Columbus took this movie because he worked with Anthony Rapp in Adventures in Babysitting? Tenuous connection, I know, but it’s not like Rapp has done a lot of other stuff other than Broadway. Either way, this is a solid but not spectacular translation of the Tony-winning play about a bunch of whiny artsy types whining about having AIDS, getting fired for insubordination, and by gosh, actually having to pay rent to live somewhere. I have a feeling in forty years that almost nobody will care about this play, as it doesn’t translate all that well outside of the 90’s. Other than the character of Angel, pretty much nobody in this play is sympathetic unless you’re a bleeding-heart communist. Still, there’s some fun music and Columbus was able to get most of the good songs into the movie while actually making it look like a movie (for the most part) rather than a play. Most of the actors who didn’t look ridiculously old yet reprised their roles, including Jesse L. Martin, who is fantastic as Tom Collins. Rosario Dawson (a newcomer) also shines as Mimi.

Grade: B

Mrs. Doubtfire: I honestly don’t know what to do with this movie, as it’s yet another Robin Williams vehicle I was crazy about when I was 12 and I like less and less over the years. The plot is insultingly contrived, as for some reason his ex-wife (Sally Field) is so bitter about Williams just being an okay husband that she convinces the court to make sure his visits with his kids are supervised by a bitch, despite the fact he obviously loves his kids and other than being a mild risk-taker, has never endangered them. Then, rather than get a better lawyer, he decides to cross-dress so he can be his kids nanny, which is scarier than anything he did while he was being a supposed bad father. Cue tired old cross-dressing jokes that stopped being funny sometime in the 80’s (or for me, 1994).  Still, I have a soft spot for this as the performances are good (Williams is actually restrained…for him) and it is pretty endearing, despite the ridiculousness of it all. The kids are adorable, especially Mara Wilson, and you really believe they’re family. I also love Robert Prosky, who plays Williams’ boss. I also appreciate the fact that Field’s new boyfriend, Pierce Brosnan, just plays a regular, nice guy and not some arrogant jerk for Williams to play off of.

Grade: B+

Other Chris Columbus Movies You May Have Seen

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Percy Jackson & the Olympians
Bicentennial Man
Stepmom
Nine Months
I Love You, Beth Cooper
Only the Lonely