CUE THE MUSIC
This film is like a labrador. It’s all over the place; it trips over itself constantly; and it’s desperate to please you at every turn. Just as you’re ready to snap it does something so unexpectedly sweet you remember why you loved it to begin with.
It might be a mess, but it’s an earnest mess.
There’s a plot here, but it’s threadbare at best. Jay and Silent Bob are still up to their usual antics; arrested for creating an illegal weed dispensary, the hapless duo are tricked into forfeiting their names to Saban films. Producing a reboot of the previous Jay and Silent Bob adventure, Saban seeks to own their image outright. The only response is to naturally head back to Hollywood in order to stop the whole thing from happening.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because this is basically the plot to JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK from 2001. REBOOT tries to be a parody of sequels, remakes, and reboots while being one itself; and in theory it’s an admirably clever attempt. But Smith doesn’t seem too invested in the idea beyond an initial what if. The real plot doesn’t even kick in until Jay discovers his minor sexual prowess have produced a daughter; Milli. Unexpectedly a father, Jay must live up to a standard he has no idea how to fill. By that point, actually stopping the production takes a backseat against a much grander storyline regarding fatherhood, legacy, and family.
Which is good, because it’s a far better and more touching story to begin with, and it feels like the one Smith actually wanted to tell all along.
This isn’t the first Smith foray into familial drama. First there was the unfairly maligned JERSEY GIRL, which is way better than reputation would suggest. His 2006 sequel CLERKS II is an unexpectedly tender look at the evolution of friendships segueing into the second half of their lives. (It’s also a great film, entirely worthy of a second look).
In REBOOT, every single scene between Jay and his new found offspring is touching. Jason Mewes is particularly a revelation, delivering an emotional and earnest performance that’s as good as he’s ever been. The script is also Smith speaking from the heart to his own daughter. Returning to filmmaking after his near-fatal heart attack in 2018, Smith has gathered his extended cinematic family together to mend relationships and rebuild bridges.
Nowhere is this as evident as in the last third of the film. Set at Chronic Con, naturally dedicated to Jay and Silent Bob, Smith uses the opportunity for cameos big and small. At his best, Smith lets his inner Charlie Kaufman fanboy loose, allowing for some truly bizarre metafiction to take place. A race through convention floors even tips its hat at the 1978 film ADVENTURES OF PICASSO. Admittedly the jokes do stretch too thin and aren’t as clever as Smith thinks they are, but this isn’t unique to Smith; even OCEAN’S 12 struggled to follow through with its multiple layers — and Soderbergh Smith is not.
Other cameos range from deeply touching reunions to minute ones where Smiths gregarious nature gets the better of him. Everyone is welcome, even at the expense of the film itself. Often very self-satisfied, REBOOT makes up for it with a newfound unpolished joy that it ultimately doesn’t matter. Ben Affleck’s appearance, teased in the trailer, after a decade apart from Smith, is particularly a scene stealer.
There are some jokes that just plain don’t land. A gag involving a put-upon driver far overstays its welcome, and the finale is a dud despite huge ambitions. There’s also a plotline involving Milli’s friends which tries both ridiculing inclusivity while also being an ally, and neither angle works. A weird detour to a KKK rally isn’t funny or biting enough to justify its presence either.
It’s far easier to list what doesn’t work than what does, because the latter is a far longer list. Even when it takes a step wrong, REBOOT is filled with audience rewarding fanservice. The approach is scattershot and simply too much all at once, but it’s also an accurate portrait of its creator. Never at a loss for words, Smith has yet to meet a story he didn’t tell via the longest detour. But that’s all part of the charm.
Once you buy the ticket, you’re in for the ride.