Firstly, what an incredible relief that Kevin Smith survived his heart attack. He’s been a delightfully positive force in Hollywood, in direct opposition to the endless vitriol to which we've recently been exposed. Smith also has multiple entertaining podcasts, living the ideal life as an ultimate fan. His openness, organic humor, and laid-back attitude have all rightfully earned him a large following.
For the first time since his foray into twisted horror, he’s released a trailer for Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. So, let’s take a look back at his best films in the View Askewniverse. That Jerseyverse is populated with a lot of incredible celebrity cameos, unabashedly juvenile humor, and genuinely poignant moments.
10 Zack and Miri Make a Porno
This movie came out right before Smith’s abrupt interest in darkly comedic thrillers. Zack and Miri Make a Porno is easily the filthiest movie Smith ever made, which seems inherent to the title. It’s full of sex throughout, but the characters are surprisingly endearing, and the leads have undeniable chemistry.
At its core, the movie is about a group of people trying to make an indie movie, and the two leads discover their hidden romance thanks to some kooky little project. Any aspiring artist can invest in that. Which makes it fun, casual, and sympathetic. They just happen to be making an adult film.
Tusk was a criminally underrated movie. It’s always fun to see Smith incorporate his lifestyle, and the podcaster angle is amusing. Justin Long brings a great deal of charm, even after his relationship faults are revealed. He’s also the source of some great comedy, which is his strong suit. Then there’s Michael Parks, who could audit someone and make it entertaining. As usual, he is gripping to watch from beginning to end.
Also, the walrus suit itself is highly disturbing, with superb special effects. The Cronenberg-style body horror is very upsetting., but what truly makes it affecting is Long’s loss of dignity. His character must behave in horribly degrading ways. This can be hugely stressful for anyone who has been cornered into substandard living.
8 Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
This selection is probably the silliest movie on Smith’s filmography, but it also feels the most fitting. The story is boisterous, even more immature than usual, and distinctly leans on meta-humor. The leads are Smith’s signature characters, the connective tissue of his shared universe. They’re a perfect pair, thanks to Jay’s unpredictable and upbeat humor, and Silent Bob’s straight man role with abrupt wisdom and an expressive face.
Also, their carefree and occasionally naive demeanor has a lot of charm. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is nothing but complete indulgence, and it actually works pretty well. It’s full of incredible cameos from icons like Carrie Fisher, and George Carlin. The movie may not have dated as well as his other stories, but it’s completely true to the characters.
7 Jersey Girl
Although Smith is known to feed into negative opinions, this is actually a decent movie. It’s often considered a little too sentimental, and perhaps it has some clichés, but the performances are solid, especially Raquel Castro and George Carlin. The latter gets plenty more to do than usual in the Askewniverse.
The writing for this film is on point regarding parenthood. The story is blatantly reflective of Smith’s position in life, and not just about the daughter. The protagonist lives a brisk city life and must revisit the roots of his small-town upbringing. Jersey Girl is precisely that, pulling back on all of the wackiness of the two preceding films. It’s possibly Smith’s most straightforward and human story.
6 Red State
Red State is a pretty surprising film for a religious person to make, although it is from the director of Dogma. Featuring another group of famous actors, this was Smith’s first foray into thrillers. And it is largely successful, particularly by incorporating all of his strengths in dark comedy. Some of the sequences overstay their welcome, but overall, the pacing is decent. The action of the film is also legitimately thrilling for a director of so many talking heads. It’s certainly a precursor to all of the television work Smith has been up to lately.
5 Chasing Amy
One can imagine how this might be a controversial film, given the subject matter. However, it turns out that Smith’s blunt and easygoing dialogue lend themselves really well to it. It makes sure that the relationships always feel genuine throughout the film. Although, Alyssa’s complete song performance feels a little too indulgent, even if we get the sentiment.
Still, the verbal tennis matches in Chasing Amy are fascinating, and the backdrop is still set firmly in Smith's world of comic books. Ultimately, the film succeeds in being a unique and heartfelt exploration about sexuality and romance.
As with many of Smith’s films, Mallrats is another romance from a male’s point of view. So, naturally, it’s more juvenile and skewed. Smith has proven to be somewhat of a hopeless romantic. At least, he captures how men can care more deeply than they would usually show or know how to deal with.
Immediately following Clerks, this selection is about another kind of slacker with self-imposed relationship issues. There’s also an equal measure of pop culture. But this time, there’s legitimate villains, silly hijinks, and far more screen time for Jay and Silent Bob. But the movie’s just about a couple of guys trying to avoid their problems by hanging out at the mall. It’s less existential, and that pardons the sillier tone of the story.
3 Clerks II
Quentin Tarantino couldn’t have said it better regarding the opening of the film. It’s both funny and poignant that the protagonists still work at the same place. It’s the impetus for the film, which is a discussion about aging and change. We’re hit with color and a burnt Quick Stop. Eventually, we also learn that Dante plans to leave for Florida with his new fiancé. And yet, at the same time, the film also follows a familiar formula, which Randall is quick to point out—Dante is always torn between two women.
That’s the biggest change of all. He finally figures himself out and commits. Oh, and by the end of the film, we get one of the strangest, most disturbing moments of all time—a donkey show. Only Smith could make something that disconcerting genuinely funny by leaning into the crazy.
This is probably one of the most creative films out there, confronting and embracing religion head-on. Leave it to Smith to make an abortion clinic worker the savior of humanity. This film is absolutely full of mythology, which should otherwise feel like homework. But Smith keeps that element supremely interesting by stamping it with hilariously demented comedy—like a particular toilet-borne demon.
Dogma is driven by an all-star cast, a perfect dose of Jay and Silent Bob, and a brisk pace. It’s also the most insightful Kevin Smith film, given that its characters are far more ruminating. This time, the casual banter is frequently an agent of reflection about religion. One can’t imagine a more entertaining way to explore such conversations.
Smith’s entire career stands on the shoulders of this classic, and rightfully so. Clerks will hold. It was a crucial addition to 90s independent filmmaking. It explored a world many would be unfamiliar with, and it’s the ideal result of every aspiring artist’s dream. Sometimes, great ambition can be rewarded given enough talent, luck, and effort. The sequences in this movie are separated by various thematic elements, tied together by the romantic problems of a clerk.
The dialogue is sharp and witty, and the relationships and friendships feel plausible in spite of exaggerated comedy. It’s infused with genuine dialogue about pop culture, which easily resonates today, but was novel at the time. Clerks is also black and white, basking in the gray areas of life. It breathes incredible charm and intrigue into the life of someone we see regularly and pay no mind to. No job could be more perfect as a catalyst for existential conversations.