Views Askew: Growing Up on Kevin Smith


[Back in June 2012, we had Kevin Smith Week to celebrate his new Hulu show, Spoilers. What with his new movie Tusk hitting theaters this week, it felt apropos to repost the article, with a new entry for the new film.]

Y’know, I don’t exactly remember when or where the first time I saw a Kevin Smith movie was. If I had to warrant a guess, it would’ve been Mallrats in the living room of my old house, the house where I spent my formative years absorbing as much pop culture as possible (not much has changed). What I do know for sure is that while growing up, the View Askewniverse was as much a part of me as pineapple calzones, Hawaiian shirts, and an inflated ego.

Of course, as one grows up, things change. They mature, develop, become an adult. I haven’t had a pineapple calzonne since I don’t know when, I haven’t purchased a Hawaiian shirt since before I graduated high school in 2005, my ego has deflated (a little bit, at least), and Kevin Smith is no longer a vital part of my DNA. But for a good long while, he was my film god. Join me, if you would, on this personal journey into the past to examine the impact the man and his movies had on my life throughout high school and up through the present. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, we’ll reflect on the zen of “snoochie boochies*.”

*That last bit probably isn’t true.

Clerks (1994)

Clerks was Smith’s first piece, and while not the first film of his I saw, it is one of the films I have the strongest sentimental bond to, not just out of Smith’s filmography, but in general. To this day I can’t help but laugh when the line, “He doesn’t speak English good like we do” pops into my head. I have distinct memories of numerous weekends hanging out with my best friend Dave late at night, giggling to ourselves throughout the film. There was one weekend when my mom was going to bed, so rather than turn the movie off, we just muted it and watched it with subtitles, and that was when we discovered the line “Smoke my big fat cock” during the scene when customers are pelting poor, beleaguered Dante with cigarettes. It killed me then, and it still does today.

Clerks was a source of inspiration for the younger Sean, and I suppose it still is. Kevin Smith built his empire of dick and fart jokes with Clerks as a pretty sturdy foundation. It didn’t make him money. I don’t even know how big of a release it had, but it became a cult classic and led to everything else that would follow. The guy scraped and scrounged and maxed out as many credit cards as he could get his hands on to make this film, and while the young Jason Mewes seemed like he was reading off of cue cards, the film as a whole was pretty solid. Clerks was the birth of the View Askewniverse. It gave us Jay and Silent Bob, Dante and Randal, and a glimpse of things to come.

Mallrats (1995)

Like I mentioned above, Mallrats was likely the first Kevin Smith film I saw, and it was probably on TV. I do remember the film resonating with me, largely due in part to comic nerd Brodie and the burning questions about super hero anatomy he dared to ask. It had a love story, action, a dating show parody, and Stan “The Man” Lee. What wouldn’t a teenage nerd love about this film?

While still not a commercial success, Mallrats was certainly entertaining. It’s notable as the first appearance of Jason Lee in the View Askewniverse. Lee would go on to star in the rest of the films in a variety of roles ranging from tracer inker, to manipulative demon badass, to douchebag at a fast food place, and despite the fact that he (and Ethan Suplee, who also stars in this film) is a Scientologist, he’s still one of the best recurring actors in the Smith oeuvre. It’s also in color, which doesn’t hurt.

Chasing Amy (1997)

Out of all the View Askew films, Chasing Amy is the one I have seen the least and is probably my least favorite (of the ones with Jay and Silent Bob, mind you). I’m sure this is laregly due to the lack of Jay and Silent Bob. It’s also the most commercial film of Smith’s to date, and young Sean was very anti-Starbucks and such. One caramel apple cider later, though…

In any event, Chasing Amy is by no means a bad film. It’s got pervasive comic book humor, lots of sex jokes, lesbians, and a rather humorous climax. I’m sure if I were to watch it again, I’d enjoy it plenty, just not as much as the others.

Dogma (1999)

Gun to my head, this is my favorite Kevin Smith film. It’s got action, high stakes, interesting characters, and really encapsulates all that is Kevin Smith. It’s goddamn brilliant. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as fallen angels? Chris Rock as the 13th, black apostle? Alan Rickman as the voice of God, who as it turns out, is played by Alanis Morrisette? Jay and Silent Bob as… well, as Jay and Silent Bob? Amazing. Before Dogma, there were very few movies like it, and to this day there still aren’t. It doesn’t get better than Dogma. At some point, I lost my awesome special edition of the film, and that’s always devastated me. Why, in all the years following, I haven’t repurchased it remains a mystery.

Clerks (the cartoon) (2000-2001)

The ill-fated cartoon version of Clerks may have only gotten to air two episodes (of a whopping six) but featured not only the original cast providing voices, but also the likes of Alec Baldwin as the maniacal Leonardo Leonardo, and guest voices like Judge Reinhold and Charles Barkley. I’ve seen all these episodes numerous times, but the greatest memory I have of the series is from freshman — maybe sophomore — year of high school. Sitting in Dave’s parents’ bedroom with him and our other friend Sean, reveling in the shared experience. The high point of that memory is still the shrill, shrieking giggle emanating from somewhere buried deep inside of the other Sean, a normally mild-mannered young man. I miss those days.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Whereas Dogma is my favorite Smith film, I’ve watched Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back more than almost all the others combined. It’s endlessly quotable (“Get the map, Scott…I said GET THE MAP, SCOTT!”, “What the fuck is the Internet?”, “You are the ones who are the ball-lickers!”, and so on), has a ton of references to the four films that preceded it, and an incredibly diverse and awesome cast (Carrie Fisher as a hairy-bushed nun, Mark Hamil as Cock-knocker, even Wes Craven gets in on this one). It’s the only film to feature Jay and Silent Bob in the starring roles, and it works. The deleted scenes are almost as long as the movie itself. I know this because one night I only had the bonus features disc, and even though they were disjointed and largely unconnected, watching the deleted scenes back-to-back was almost as great as the movie itself. There’s literally nothing bad I can say about this film.

Jersey Girl (2004)

Yup, this was absolutely a movie. I saw it once, enjoyed it, and have very little recollection beyond that. After this movie, I took Film as Art during the last semester of my senior year of high school and discovered Charlie Chaplin. Obviously, I’d seen a film or two of his before, but I actually learned about the man and was exposed to more of his films. Suddenly, Kevin Smith was no longer my cinematic god. He’d been replaced. In the years to come, the more I’d hear about his wacky antics, the further he’d fall down the ladder. It’s not Jersey Girl’s fault, I just started growing up (cinematically, at least). 

Clerks II (2006)

This was the first of Smith’s films I got to see in theaters, and as far as I was concerned, it was perfect. Dave and I got together with a group of our friends and saw it at midnight. It was awesome. Dante, Randall, Jay, and Silent Bob were reunited at franchise fast food place, Mooby’s. We were also introduced to several awesome new characters, chief among them the crazy sexy Rosario Dawson. If you’ve seen this film, you presumably remember the dance number on top of the restaurant. Mmmmmmm. I love Clerks II and think it’s the perfect way to tie up the View Askew films in a nice, neat bow, with the original characters from Smith’s first movie. If you told me Kevin Smith would come out of retirement to make a third one, I’d nod affectionately and tell you to bring it on. As is, though, I’m alright with this being the last time we see Jay and Silent Bob (canonically, anyway).

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)

I don’t know why people hate on this film so bad. I enjoyed it the first time I saw it and have enjoyed it every time since. It’s a cute love story wrapped inside of the dick and fart jokes Smith has been telling from day one. It also had the most ridiculous love scene I’d ever seen: Zack and Miri consummating their relationship as Live’s “Hold Me Up” played. Since then, it has been dethroned by the Nite Owl and Silk Spectre scene in Watchmen, but it still maintains the number two position hands down. For what it’s worth, it also redeemed Brandon Routh for Superman Returns.

Cop Out (2010)

Eh. Again, I don’t know what the problem people have with this movie is. It was the only movie Smith directed that he didn’t write, but I still found it pretty amusing. Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, and Seann William Scott were great. I’ve only seen it the one time in theaters, but maybe I’ll watch it again and see if I can figure out why everyone hates it. Sure, it’s not on par with his other films, but it’s not that bad.

Red State (2011)

Conversely, Red State was hard to watch. What starts out like a Superbad XXX Parody quickly turns into a tense horror film where the monster is an extreme Christian fundamentalist. It then quickly turns into a siege-gone-wrong film. It was kind of a mess in my book. 

I saw Red State with Alex and Jenika on the last night I was in LA, and all three of us were not pleased. In fact, we were the only three that got up and walked out before the Q&A with Smith. One of the theater employees was standing outside as we were leaving and asked if we wanted to stay for the Q&A. I said I had a flight to catch early the next day (which was true), and as we went to walk away, who should pull up but Kevin Smith himself. We stood there for a second as he got out of his vehicle, then turned and walked away, continuing on with our evening. We snubbed Kevin Smith.

If you went back in time ten years and told the 14-year-old Sean that his 24-year-old counterpart just snubbed Kevin Smith, he probably would’ve beaten the shit out of you, stolen your time machine, jumped to 2011, and kicked the holy hell out of 24-year-old Sean. That speaks volumes on the relationship I’ve had with Kevin Smith. I once worshipped the man. Now, the thought of him splitting his last film into two made me sigh with aggravation (thankfully, that’s no longer the case). No matter how I feel about him now, it doesn’t change how I feel about his movies, and can never sully the memories I have of watching them.

Kevin Smith and I may have grown apart, but we’ll always have Jersey.


Tusk (2014)

Tusk was everything I wanted from a Kevin Smith horror film. I enjoyed it as thoroughly as I disliked Red State and am absolutely ecstatic for the next two thirds in the True North trilogy (not to mention his Krampus film and Clerks 3). The next film, Yoga Hosers, will feature the two girls from the convenience store from Tusk, as well as Guy LaPointe, who may well be my favorite character of 2014 (possibly the last decade). If I had to choose one hashtag for this year, it would certainly be #walrusyes. If I could go back in time to 2011, I would tell my past self to have patience, because his childhood hero will return to form in a big way in just a few short years.

Thank you, Kevin Smith, for restoring my faith in you.