Chronic problem

Movie: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Our Rating: 1.50

"A Jay and Silent Bob movie? Who'd pay to see that?" Ben Affleck asks in the new Kevin Smith comedy that's just that. The answer: fans obsessed with the "little stoner with bad pronunciation," as the movie describes Jay, and those who want to see Smith devolve as an artist.

Billed as the duo's final outing, "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" takes the two New Jersey degenerates who appeared only briefly in Smith's previous films and makes the mistake of devoting a full 90 minutes to them. Jason Mewes, following proudly in the acting tradition of Yahoo Serious and Pauly Shore, reprises his role as the pot-smoking, four-letter-word-spouting Jay. Joining him once again is Smith himself as Bob.

Picking up where 1997's far superior "Chasing Amy" left off, the story centers on the idea that Jay and Bob are the real-life inspiration for the popular comic-book characters Bluntman and Chronic, hophead adventurers created by artists Holden McNeil (Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee). As the new film begins, Jay and Bob learn that the movie rights to the characters have been sold to Hollywood without their consultation.

Upset over the inconveniences of fame and bad publicity the film would generate, Jay and Bob set out for Hollywood to stop it from being made. Along the way, one unfunny, sophomoric adventure after another befalls them as they encounter a variety of tired, predictable characters. Some of the actors who appear in these roles -- such as George Carlin, Chris Rock and Matt Damon, who plays himself -- are veterans of Smith's previous comedies, but a slew of others are new. They're either desperate for work (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher) or working desperately to save Smith's dismal script.

The biggest surprise is that Jay manages to find a woman (Shannon Elizabeth) who is stupid enough to fall in love with him. We know that love is blind, but it's apparently deaf as well, given that he can't come up with any pet names for his new love other than "bitch" and similar vulgarities.

Those familiar with Smith's oeuvre will receive a few chuckles, as there are plenty of in-jokes and references to past Jay-and-Bob moments. But if you are fortunate enough to have avoided the duo up to now, this film holds nothing for you. Not even the self-deprecating humor (much fun is had at the expense of the movie's studio, Miramax) is enough to make the film bearable.

In "Chasing Amy," Jay and Bob were described as "Bill and Ted meets Cheech and Chong." But at least those characters had some charm, and in the case of the latter pair of pot-smoking L.A. buddies, an ability to make us laugh at their stupidity. The only positive aspect of Jay and Bob's idiocy is our knowledge that this is apparently their last hurrah.

After the clever but overrated "Chasing Amy" and "Dogma," Smith was mentioned in conversation alongside names like Woody Allen and Mel Brooks. Now he's only one step from the Wayans brothers.

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