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Heroes at Large

Just as George Lucas has Luke Skywalker, director Kevin Smith has two New Jersey slackers. How fitting.

August 19, 2001|ROBERT W. WELKOS | Robert W. Welkos is a Times staff writer

It is Day 25 on the set of Kevin Smith's raunchy new comedy "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back"--the final chapter in the director's self-described "New Jersey chronicles," which began with his 1994 cult fave "Clerks." Smith is seated in a director's chair, his beefy frame planted firmly near a row of aging bungalows on the sprawling grounds of L.A.'s Ambassador Hotel, that impressive but faded dowager alongside Wilshire Boulevard.

Someone on the set yells, "Rolling!" and the bearded, 31-year-old filmmaker leans forward and studies the camera monitors as three scantily clad young women appear on a second-floor balcony. These are the anti-Charlie's Angels--Sissy, Chrissy and Missy--and, boy, are they whooping it up. They're slapping and shaking their booties, running their fingers through their long locks and guzzling champagne from bottles.

In this scene, the girls--played by Eliza Dushku, Ali Larter and Jennifer Schwalbach (Smith's real-life wife)--are also hurling insults down to the deck below at a fourth member of their sexy she-gang, a bespectacled girl named Justice, played by Shannon Elizabeth of "American Pie" fame.

The gang has just pulled off a daring diamond heist, but Justice is feeling blue because in staging the burglary, they set up two likeable hitchhikers as fall guys--Jay and Silent Bob, played respectively as always by Jason Mewes and Smith.

As Dushku takes a swig of the bubbly, she strikes a sexy pose and says saucily, "Sarah Lawrence girls. Go figure." Chrissy and Missy burst out laughing, but not Justice, who is thinking about the boys and what they did to them.

Sissy angrily tells her, "You know, I don't get you, Justice. You used to be all about this girl stuff--stealing, [sex], blowing [things] up. And now you're like this little priss with a conscience. It's really a

"We all have to grow up sometime," Justice replies.

And even directors like Kevin Smith have to move on sometime.

"Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," which opens Friday, is a movie that has been eagerly awaited by Smith's fans ever since they busted a gut watching Jay and his taciturn sidekick, Silent Bob, standing outside the Quick Stop convenience store in Red Bank, N.J., in "Clerks." Smith has promised to retire the characters after his new picture, although they will live on in comic book form and possibly a "Clerks" animated feature.

There was foul-mouthed Jay, yapping away nonstop about who knows what, while Silent Bob drew down on cigarette after cigarette, hardly saying two words. How did the press describe them? Oh, yeah. Just like C-3P0 and R2D2 in "Star Wars." The comparison seemed to fit.

Jay and Silent Bob would surface as comic relief in Smith's other films: "Mallrats" (1995), "Chasing Amy" (1997) and "Dogma" (1999).

Now, in this "final chapter" in the Jay and Silent Bob saga, the dynamic duo seeks revenge as the pair heads from New Jersey to Hollywood to find old friend Banky Edwards, who has sold them out by making a motion picture about "Bluntman and Chronic," a pair of comic-book superheroes who were created by Ben Affleck and Jason Lee's characters in "Chasing Amy" and were based on Jay and Silent Bob.

When they learn that Banky is going to make a movie, they are upset because people are bashing them on the Internet, and that, they believe, will inhibit their chances of getting sex, so they vow to sabotage the production.

Along the way, they meet up with an odd assortment of characters--some familiar from past Smith movies such as Affleck, Matt Damon and Alanis Morissette--and others making cameo appearances such as Chris Rock, George Carlin, Will Ferrell, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Jason Biggs, James Van Der Beek, Jon Stewart and Shannen Doherty. Even directors Wes Craven and Gus Van Sant get into the act, appearing as themselves.

Smith's wife (whom he met when she came to interview him one day back when she was a reporter for USA Today), and their infant daughter, Harley Quinn, are also featured in the film, as is producer Scott Mosier, Smith's longtime producing partner, friend and editor.

Rated R, the film is replete with crude language, sexually oriented humor and even a rap song about smoking weed. It is also a broad sendup of things Smith holds near and dear, like comic books, "Star Wars" and the pulsating music of Morris Day and the Time.

Released by Dimension Films, the youth-oriented label within Miramax Films, the movie is directed straight at Smith's core fans, who don't blink at flatulence, the F-word and references to female sex organs.

But Smith's films have always been too idiosyncratic to become blockbusters. "Clerks," for all the buzz, made only $3.1 million; "Mallrats" a paltry $2.1 million. "Chasing Amy" did better, with $12 million, while "Dogma," which starred Affleck and Damon, grossed $30.3 million.

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