Kevin Smith Movies

Friday, February 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

If you’ve watched one or more Kevin Smith movies, then you’ll notice a number of recurring elements. First, there’s the toilet humor and liberal use of foul language. Then there’s the constant appearance of stoners Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). And let’s not forget about pop culture references, especially those related to sci-fi movies and comic books. Oh, and relationships…plenty of talk about the relationships between men and women.

In limited doses, any of the items listed above are fine. But Smith just doesn’t know when to quit, approaching each project like a child determined to drive a square peg through a round hole. After 17 years in the filmmaking business, it’s become a little tiresome. And while contemporaries have moved on to more ambitious projects, Smith continues to go back to the already dry well of the View Askewniverse with pail in hand.

I wouldn’t mind all this so much if Smith were a no-talent, but it’s obvious that the man has great potential lurking inside his beefy frame. For every five jokes about pot or blowjobs, there’s a moment of sheer genius, and that’s what keeps me coming back for more. One day, Kevin Smith is going to break through as a filmmaker, and I want to be there to bask in the glory.

All the films listed below can be obtained from Netflix, the leading online rental service in the United States. With over 100,000 movies to choose from, fast delivery, and multiple subscription plans, you’re crazy not to give them a try. In fact, you can click here to start the Netflix membership process.

Clerks (1994) – Still one of the best Kevin Smith movies, and it just so happens to be his debut feature. Set in a convenience store, filmed in black-and-white, and made on a shoestring budget, Clerks heralded a new direction for indie filmmaking and played a large role in the formation of future sub-genres such a mumblecore. Following a day in the life of a disgruntled employee (Brian O’Halloran) and his even more disgruntled pal (Jeff Anderson) who works in the neighboring video store, this pop culture comedy leaves no stone unturned in its search for a higher understanding of the slacker mentality. Those unfamiliar with Smith’s work are urged to start here.

Mallrats (1995) – Two pals (Jeremy London and Jason Lee) who’ve just broken up with their girlfriends head to the mall to clear their heads and do a little male bonding. Potheads Jay and Silent Bob show up (of course), as well as numerous other misfits and oddballs (including Ben Affleck, Claire Forlani, Shannen Doherty, Michael Rooker, and Joey Lauren Adams). Comic book legend Stan Lee also puts in an appearance, no doubt sending Smith’s geek-o-meter far into the red. While nowhere near as clever as Clerks, it does have its moments thanks to a relentless bombardment of pop culture reference ranging from Batman to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Chasing Amy (1997) – While it opened to critical acclaim, I found the endless emotional soul-searching of Chasing Amy to be more than a little taxing. Not as taxing, mind you, as the voice of Joey Lauren Adams (who happened to be dating Smith when he wrote the script). Ben Affleck got a push in the right direction as a leading man, here playing a comic book artist who falls for a lesbian (Adams) and must deal with the emotional complications that predictably arise. It did mark a milestone in Smith’s growth as a director, and it remains the best-reviewed film of his career.

Dogma (1999) – Working with a strong cast and an ambitious script, Smith drops the ball with his tale of two fallen angels (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) whose desire to return to Heaven threatens to tear the cosmos apart. Linda Fiorentino plays a descendant of Christ who works at an abortion clinic; Chris Rock is the 13th apostle; and Alanis Morissette is God. Even the presence of Salma Hayek and Alan Rickman can’t save the film from trying too hard to be subversive, and the outlandish comedy and heavy-duty religious themes often fail to jibe.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) – Jay and Silent Bob return (yet again), this time on a quest to Hollywood to stop production on a film loosely based on their exploits. Along the way, they encounter a gang of international jewel thieves (including Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter, and Shannon Elizabeth), an obsessive wildlife marshal (Will Ferrell), a racist film director (Chris Rock), and a hitchhiker (George Carlin) who teaches them the “rule of the road”: always give oral sex in exchange for a ride. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Biggs, Carrie Fisher, Gus Van Sant, Mark Hamill, Wes Craven, and Seann William Scott all turn up in cameos, but even the level of starpower assembled can’t stop this motion picture from being just another juvenile effort on the part of Smith. Fans of Morris Day and the Time will be thrilled, however, as they perform “Jungle Love” during the film’s closing credits.

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Jersey Girl (2004) – The first Kevin Smith film not to feature Jay and Silent Bob, Jersey Girl deals with a media publicist (Ben Affleck) who loses his wife (Jennifer Lopez), then his job, and neglects his newborn daughter. As the years pass, his daughter grows up and he slowly begins to yearn for a relationship. Enter Maya (Liv Tyler): a video store clerk with really nice lips. Filled with clichés and nominated for three Razzie Awards, Jersey Girl nonetheless marks an important departure for Smith. George Carlin is notable in a non-comedic performance.

Clerks II (2006) – When I heard that Clerks II was going to be made, my first instinct was to bang my head against the wall. After promising that Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was going to be his last visit to the View Askewniverse, Smith reversed his position and retreated back to safe territory. But while certain scenes (aka the donkey show) prove that Smith is still immature as a filmmaker, he managed to defy expectations by painting a surprisingly touching portrait of Dante and Randall eleven years after the events in Clerks. The use of music–especially “ABC” by The Jackson 5–lends a powerful resonance to key scenes, and the presence of Rosario Dawson is always welcome. One of the rare sequels that doesn’t take a big ‘ol dump all over its predecessor.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) – When lifelong platonic friends (Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) decide to make a porno in order to get out of debt, their relationship undergoes a profound transformation. Sure, it’s a romantic comedy, but it’s still filled with all the projectile diarrhea and f-bombs you’ve come to expect from a Kevin Smith movie. Jason Mewes proves he can play someone other than stoner Jay, and Justin Long steals every scene he’s in as gay adult film star Brandon St. Randy.

Cop Out (2010) – Smith wasn’t pleased with the negative reviews for his film about two cops (Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan) in search of a vintage baseball card. He even threatened to charge critics for future screenings of his films, something which drew even more catcalls from the critical community. But the poor reviews were well-deserved, as Cop Out is a listless exercise in paint-by-numbers comedy. The presence of Bruce Willis couldn’t save it, and Tracy Morgan and his one-note acting only pulled it farther down the deep pit reserved for bad Hollywood movies.

I sincerely hope the director doesn’t carry though on his threats to retire in the near future, as Kevin Smith movies remain some of the most original and foul-mouthed you’ll see at the local megaplex. Let’s just hope he’ll branch out and get away from films that rely on sex and drug humor. Sure, there’s a place for that, but it’s better left to artists under the age of 40.

While we’re waiting for Smith to come to his senses, remember that you can see all the movies listed above by becoming a member of Netflix. We do receive a small commission when you do this, but it adds nothing to your final cost. And how can you resist an online rental service that offers over 100,000 motion pictures and TV shows? I know I couldn’t, which is why I’ve been a member since 2005.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 18th, 2011 at 7:59 am and is filed under Good Movies, Thoughts on Film. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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