kevin-smith-movies

What is it about the writer/director that makes for such successful comedic filmmakers? Woody Allen, Christopher Guest, Wes Anderson – there’s just something about the ability to take one’s written words and give them with a specific behind-the-camera vision. Kevin Smith is no different. Is putting Smith’s name in the same echelon as the above-mentioned greats a bit of a stretch? Well, let’s find out. Throw on a hockey jersey, grab some snootchy-bootches and follow me.

 

Clerks (1994)

What can you say about a movie that was made for less than $30,000 and is hilarious from beginning to end? This is the one that put Smith on the map, and deservedly so. The back-and-forth, almost play-like dialog, the perfect apathetic 90’s soundtrack, and some rather good performances from a cast of entirely unknown actors make this one easily his best. If you haven’t seen it in a while, do yourself a favor. Especially for the bit where Randal (Jeff Anderson) chastises the woman who tries to fool him in the video store. No one appreciates your rouge, ma’am!

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Mallrats (1995)

What do you do after a successful indie film? Go Hollywood! Smith takes (most) of his entourage with him and throws in a few big names (Ben Affleck, Shannon Doherty, Jason Lee) and continues his experiment in balancing intellegent sarcasm with crass, hilarious bathroom humor. It was a sophomore effort for sure, with a little too much slapstick thrown into an otherwise very good story. But it was a critical success, even if the box office didn’t reflect it at the time.

 

Chasing Amy (1997)

Ah, the dramedy (Sorry, I’m not a fan of that term)! Smith takes on the ever-controversial subject of sexual identity with his usual familiar faces. It’s a good story about one man (Affleck) trying, and failing, to “get with” a confirmed lesbian (Joey Lauren Adams) while balancing a successful comic book career. Smith’s now-familiar themes of comics, Star Wars, and love unrequited are very much present in this acclaimed film.

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Dogma (1999)

And now, on to God. This film has a good concept marred by big names (I meant the movie, not God, although that statement could apply to both). It’s great when you first see it, good when you watch it again, and doesn’t really stand the test of time during repeated viewings. Almost a direct biblical cross between Good Will Hunting and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Wait, did I say “almost?”

 

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Yet another “Look how much I like Star Wars” outing from Smith. I know I’m going to catch crap for this, but when your movie has a weak plot and lacks heart, filling it up with celebrity cameos can’t cover it up. Which is sad, because Kevin Smith writes heart into most of his movies so well.

 

Jersey Girl (2004)

Ouch. That’s it. Kevin Smith says so himself in just about every interview when asked about this particular film. He has called it his most personal film as well, which maybe stands to show his regret at its unfortunate outcome. Is it his worst film? No (see below), but it is hard to imagine anyone liking the characters in this story of a workaholic who must become a real dad to his precocious young daughter after a tragedy. It’s good to see George Carlin in a great performance, but that’s about it.

 

Clerks II (2006)

And we have hit rock bottom. A sentimental attempt to recapture the lightning in a bottle that sparked his career. Do not watch this movie unless you want to see the great and powerful Oz as the man behind the curtain. Absolutely his worst effort to date, bar none.

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Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)

And then, the glorious resurrection! Smith goes back to basics, with a great cast and a wonderful premise,and redeems himself in spades. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks lead an ensemble cast on a wild ride of raunchy porn gags, insightful verbal slams, social commentary that is never preachy, and a wonderful and non-sappy ending. Next to Clerks, this is some of his best.

 

Cop Out (2010)

Smith did not write this (director only) and it shows. Not bad as far as buddy cop movies go, but not very memorable either. If it wasn’t for the talented stars of this film (Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan) I’d almost say rent Lethal Weapon IV instead (Easy, I said almost).

 

Red State (2011)

I had heard this was supposed to be his “horror” movie. I disagree. Disturbing? Yes. Social commentary? Oh you betcha. But horror? No. It is extremely unique, violent and not bad, even if it is heavier handed than most Michael Moore pictures (Smith divides the cast credits at the end into “sex,” “religion,” and “government”).

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Clerks III (201?)

Dear god. When has the third movie in a trilogy ever been the best? Prove me wrong, Mr. Smith. Please, prove me wrong.

 

So, much like the writer/directors mentioned at the beginning of the article, Kevin Smith has had some hits and misses. But who doesn’t? And the poignant success of his hits FAR outweighs his mediocre films.

P.S. You should check out his run as a writer on DC Comics’s Green Arrow and Marvel’s Daredevil. Why he was kicked off of the Superman Returns project I will never know, but it was an absolute crime.

In high school, Ian Murphy and his girlfriend tried to watch Clerks on DVD with his parents. His folks got up and left after about 20 minutes. That’s how he knew it was REALLY good…