Kevin Smith's latest follows the typical quest-story format but forgoes the long gaps in story line established by most films in the quest genre.
Instead, Smith relies on a goldmine of cameos, tight comedic performances and a constant barrage of crude sex and drug references to carry the fast-paced film.
Jay and Silent Bob find out that "Bluntman and Chronic," the comic book for which they are the basis, is about to be made into a movie. They haven't been paid for the use of their likenesses, and, on top of that, they discover people are slandering their characters in Internet chat rooms. To regain their honor, the two begin a journey to Hollywood to stop the movie's production.
In true quest-story form, it's what happens to the two along the way that provides the meat of "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and the result is a kind of "Wayne's World" meets "Cheech And Chong" hilarity.
During the trip, the duo get mixed up with a band of beautiful jewel thieves, steal an orangutan and are pursued by a federal wildlife marshal. In one hilarious segment, Jay and Bob are picked up by the Mystery Machine of Scooby-Doo fame.
The film is rife with hot-shot cameos. Everyone from Mark Hamill to quintessential '80s funk band Morris Day and The Time make an appearance in the film. But the most entertaining cameo is made by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on the supposed set of "Good Will Hunting Two." Affleck nags Damon about his artsy films like "The Talented Mr. Ripley," and Damon calls the crap on Affleck's role in "Reindeer Games," causing things to get hysterically messy.
But "Strike Back" rambles at times, and some of the gags fall flat. Smith's parody on "The Fugitive" isn't much funnier than any of numerous spoofs launched on network television in the seven years since the film went to video.
Moments like these sometimes give way to a niggling feeling that Smith thinks this is funnier than it actually is.
Also, "Saturday Night Live" star Will Ferrell doesn't translate well to the big screen as wildlife marshal Wilenholly. More often than not, his hamming is painfully unfunny. When it does hit the mark, the humor isn't memorable in light of everything else in the film.
But Jason Mewes is as entertaining as ever in his foul-mouthed role of Jay, and Smith brings a new-found confidence and deftness to his portrayal of Silent Bob.
Likewise, the gorgeous Shannon Elizabeth plays Justice, jewel thief and Jay's love interest, with an assured straightforwardness that is one of the film's most enjoyable gifts.
It's sometimes difficult not to feel like "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" isn't a step down from Smith's recent forays into "serious" territory, like "Chasing Amy" and the especially wonderful "Dogma."
But then again, you can't punish Smith for having fun. Especially not when it's this much fun to watch.
The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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