Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is an entertaining return to the View Askewniverse that celebrates the past while keeping an eye fixed on the future.
After twenty-five years and six movies, Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse has reached the same conclusion its fellow shared universe, the MCU, did a while ago: you've either done your homework and can understand the majority of its references, or you're not invested in these films at all. The seventh entry, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, is a lot like Endgame in particular, in the sense that it's a love letter to its franchise's history, yet gives its creator an opportunity to correct the mistakes of their past and bring a newfound sense of maturity and wisdom to the table. There's also a lowbrow gag involving a portable outhouse because, as the older and wiser Smith recognizes, there's nothing wrong with a poop joke when it's aimed at a deserving target (literally). Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is an entertaining return to the View Askewniverse that celebrates the past while keeping an eye fixed on the future.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot picks up in the present, as the titular duo (Jason Mewes and Smith) are arrested for operating a marijuana business in the shop next to Quick Stop Groceries. While their court-appointed lawyer (Justin Long) has little trouble clearing their names, he also tricks the pair into signing away their naming rights to Saban Films. Turns out, Saban is developing a reboot of the Bluntman and Chronic movie, which is now a cult classic complete with its own convention, Chronic Con. Determined to reclaim their names and stop the reboot, Jay and Silent Bob once again set out on a road trip to Hollywood. But along the way, they make a life-changing discovery: Jay has a teen daughter, Millennium "Milly" Faulken (Harley Quinn Smith), and she wants them to take her and her friends to Chronic Con, where the reboot's director, "Kevin Smith", is planning to shoot the movie's final scene.
A legacy sequel or "reboot-quel" to the fifth View Askewniverse film, 2001's Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is to Smith what this year's Glass is to M. Night Shyamalan; it's not a return to their roots, it's a reflection on the scrappy directors they were starting out in the '90s, and the idiosyncratic artists they've become in the decades since. The film is as much the handiwork of the guy who released the bizarre horror-comedies Tusk and Yoga Hosers as it is the one who helmed comparatively grounded movies like Clerks and Chasing Amy, and the blending of these styles results in some of Smith's best work in some time. His screenplay is built on a mountain of meta-references and his sense of craftsmanship (per tradition, he served as his own director and editor) still has a do-it-yourself sensibility, but there's a confidence and sense of ease to his filmmaking. This isn't Smith trying to prove anything, it's him being comfortable with who he is and drawing from the experience he's gained with time.
That sense of relaxation extends to his massive cast of recent or longtime collaborators, who are clearly having a good time reuniting with their old friend here. The View Askewniverse has never been too (or at all) concerned about continuity when it comes to casting, and Jay and Silent Bob Reboot will only further confound anyone who's trying to keep track of how many actors play multiple characters in the franchise. Even so, the ensemble's joy is infectious and there's a simple pleasure to be had in watching them riff on their old roles and career missteps alongside Smith. And though the dramatic moments are handled with anything but subtly, there's a realness to them which stems from the actors having known each other for many years (or, in Mewes and Harley Quinn Smith's case, the latter's entire life), making them genuinely touching at times.
The film is equally sincere in the way it satirizes the concept of "reboot-quels" (like Star Wars: The Force Awakens), yet works as one itself and recognizes how they can serve to address a franchise's previous shortcomings. Gone, for example, is the ironic homophobia of View Askewniverse movies past; instead, with Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, Kevin Smith becomes an ally who recognizes there are plenty of other ways to crack dirty jokes (whether they involve weed, sex, or a combination of the pair) that don't require gay panic. He even finds a way to redeem his most problematic film, Chasing Amy, without just throwing it under the bus, and gives its fans the mini-sequel they deserve in the process. Growth might not come easy for Jay and Silent Bob, but this movie proves it's possible without forcing them to lose their comedic edge - and there's a lesson to be learned from that.
Due to its unorthodox release, the only people likely to see Jay and Silent Bob Reboot in theaters are the hardcore Smith fans who actively seek it out. Those who do will be rewarded with a return trip to the View Askewniverse that's as irreverent and absurd as one could hope, but at the same time thoughtful and reflects Smith's honest gratitude that he's still standing (following his heavily-publicized heart attack in 2018), healthier than ever, and has an audience that continues to enjoy his brand of silliness. And who knows: if Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is Smith's The Force Awakens, then perhaps the upcoming Clerks 3 will be his The Last Jedi. Well, in terms of quality, anyway.
Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is now playing on a U.S. roadshow tour. It is 95 minutes long and is rated R for pervasive strong crude sexual content, language throughout, drug use and some nudity.