Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie (2013)

Cult film-maker Kevin Smith has dabbled in the world of animation before, most notably with the short-lived Clerks animated series, based on his first movie of the same name. Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie is directed by animator Steve Stark who first came to prominence with Smodimations, the animated version of Smith's hugely popular- and often hilarious- Smodcast.

Smith's early features take place in the shared 'Viewaskew-niverse," beating Marvel to the punch by some years. The main connecting tissue between the films are the fan-favourite characters of Jay and Silent Bob- played by Jason Mewes and Smith himself. This animated spin-off sees Jay and Bob return to the screen for the first time since 2006's Clerks II.

Being essentially live-action cartoons, Smith's characters are seemingly a natural fit for animation. This time however, being an independently funded feature there's no need for the toning down seen in Clerks The Animated Series. So Smith's universe, and animation is a good match, right?


Time to lay some cards down on the table. It's in recent years become fashionable to shovel hate on Smith, both from professional critics, and from film fans in general. His one-man war on critics who give him negative reviews certainly hasn't helped matters. This review though is not coming from a place of anti-Smith sentiment. Far from it- I like Smith as a personality and enjoy his podcasts. Cop Out and Zack and Miri aside, I've enjoyed his films too.

It therefore gives me no pleasure to say that this is a failure on nearly every level. The actual art-style is fine if nothing special, but is let down by poor quality animation. It's highly reminiscent of Flash animation from a decade ago or more. It wouldn't look out of place on Joe Cartoon in 1999, alongside such 'classics' as Gerbil In A Microwave. It would be easy to say that it's down to a low budget or limited resources.  Of course, it's never going to compete with a major studio production. But in a time when animation is being produced online of an extremely high quality, often by an individual on essentially zero budget, that doesn't really cut it. Animation fans have come to expect much better.

That's not a deal-breaker by itself though. The scrappy animation could have in fact been part of it's charm. South Park has never been held back by it's limited animation, for example. Unfortunately there's a huge gulf between this and South Park, and it frankly comes down to the terrible script.

Penned by Smith himself, it's a super-hero parody that sees the titular characters take on their super alter-egos Bluntman and Chronic following a lottery win. It's full of references, both to geek culture and Smith's earlier works. The humour is unsurprisingly lowbrow, relying on bodily functions, drug references and sex jokes. Nothing surprising there- it's essentially how the New Jersey film-maker turned podcaster has built his career, and there's nothing wrong with that per-se. The problem here is that the script is just painfully unfunny, with every joke here falling flat. To give you an idea with the level we're dealing with here- there's a super villain named DickHead who (ho ho) has an actual phallus as a head. There's nothing more subjective than sense of humour though.. so to some this could be gut-bustingly hilarious.

So what went wrong? It's tempting to speculate that the script was written under the influence- and is perhaps only funny to somebody similarly... stimulated. Is this written in the belief that it's actually good, or is it nothing more than a cynical exercise to milk his loyal fanbase?  Regrettably, it certainly feels like the latter.

Those hardcore fans will have some fun spotting voice cameos from Smith's friends and co-stars- alongside some celebrities who ought to know better (et tu Neil Gaiman?). Even the most ardent Smith fan is likely to find this a slog though. This would have (maybe) tolerable as a short.  But even at a relatively swift 64 minutes this feels incredibly stretched out. This aimed at a very specific audience- but unfortunately even they are likely to come away disappointed.

JAY AND SILENT BOB'S SUPER GROOVY CARTOON MOVIE IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY and DVD in the US and DVD in the UK, also available STREAMING on NETFLIX (UK/US/Can)






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