The Cheech and Chong of indie cinema take on the empire known as Hollywood in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," a raunchy parody that's hip-deep in the mainstream it aims to rip, and sometimes does despite a glut of smug inside jokes.
Kevin Smith, who previously directed "Dogma" and "Chasing Amy," may not have sold out, but he's no longer a rebellious outsider, as he demonstrates by incessant allusions to Miramax. There are so many, in fact, that nobody would have been shocked if plus-size studio chief Harvey Weinstein showed up and mooned the audience.
Honcho hindquarters notwithstanding, Smith's movie has no lack of afts, ends or butts. Of course when it comes to dumb guy flicks, that's a given along with the gastrointestinal tract's role as a kind of sophomoric Greek chorus. But that's not what fans have come to expect of the daring filmmaker.
Smith also plays Silent Bob, the slightly smarter buddy of the moronic, potty-mouthed Jay (Jason Mewes). First introduced in Smith's debut, "Clerks," the characters have since developed their own following. Here they're left to make it on their own for the first time. Well, almost. Matt Damon, Chris Rock, Judd Nelson, Jason Biggs, Carrie Fisher, George Carlin, James Van Der Beek, Mark Hamill and Shannen Doherty are among the name players who prop up the pair in cameo roles. Ben Affleck has a more substantial dual role, as himself and the co-creator of "Bluntman and Chronic," a comic book based on Bob and Jay's personas.
After learning that Miramax is making a big-budget adaptation of the comic, the fellows set out for California to claim a share of the purchase price. The ensuing road trip leads to a series of "Dumb & Dumber"-esque high jinks interspersed with ribald, occasionally riotous parodies of "Star Wars," "Planet of the Apes" and "Charlie's Angels."
At one point, the heroes happen upon the sets of "Good Will Hunting II" and "Scream IV," in which Gus Van Sant and Wes Craven, the respective directors, make obligatory appearances. Could this be a self-congratulatory reference to Miramax's versatility?
Aside from the movie riffs, the humor tends to be homophobic, misogynist or both. Again that's to be expected of overgrown-boy comedies, but it's hard to tell whether Smith is slamming the genre or reveling in it.
Smith doesn't seem to know himself, much less care. No wonder the picture lacks the mix of innocence and savagery that branded his other films. Then again, maybe this farce doesn't really belong to Smith, but to Silent Bob and Harvey Weinstein.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (104 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for profanity, nudity and salacious material.