I make no bones about being a Kevin Smith fan. Even if “Clerks” had been the totality of his output and he had never made another film, one could make a case for his being an original and engaging cinema voice quite unlike any other.
Thankfully, he has made more than a few films well worthy of viewing – I regularly put “Mallrats” in for a viewing, love the hell out of “Dogma” as a statement on faith and think “Clerks 2” may be that rare sequel which is better than the original instalment in the series.
Even films like “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” get regular play from me – it isn’t big, it certainly isn’t clever but its profane warmth, Morris Day and The Time climactic dance number and George Carlin cameo make it worth checking out every couple of years. And I like “Jersey Girl” without any irony whatsoever – I think it’s a charming and oddly truthful look at being an adult and trying to negotiate your dreams and balance far-fetched notions with the demands of family.
My issues with Smith’s recent output are shared by the director himself in his new book, “Tough Shit – Life Advice From a Fat Lazy Slob Who Did Good”.
He seems bemused and chastened by the failure of “Zack and Miri Make A Porno” – which I confess to having found not very interesting when I watched half of it a few years ago. It’s still on my Blu-Ray shelf, waiting to be watched completely and probably isn’t anywhere near as annoying as I found it on initial viewing.
Reflecting on the fact that he somehow managed to end kindred spirit Seth Rogen‘s box office winning streak when they worked together, Smith is quick to note that by the time that “Zack and Miri” came around, his films were increasingly informed by cinema as an art form itself rather than any resemblance to real life and suffered accordingly for that disconnection from the audience.
Still, at least I own “Zack and Miri” – I have yet to find a copy of Smith’s subsequent major studio Bruce Willis vehicle “Cop Out” online which is cheap enough to persuade me to buy it. I rented the film and made my way through twenty minutes before getting the distinct sense that A) Bruce Willis was phoning it in and B) That Kevin, if not quite at the phone booth, was certainly in the queue behind Willis and making ready to do same.
Reading Smith’s new book, it’s a wonder that he made it through the shoot without giving the once and future John McClane a richly deserved kick in the unmentionables.
Diva antics like you wouldn’t believe, a refusal to turn up and y’know act, and a distinct sense that he stopped enjoying his work many years ago – Willis doesn’t come over well and this negative pen portrait is only enhanced by Smith employing the same degree of lacerating analysis to himself, so as to neatly sidestep any accusations of placing the blame for an underperforming film on its lead actor in a bid to excuse his own shortcomings as a film maker – short comings which Smith is only too keen to point out at regular intervals in the book.
It’s an enjoyable read and a neat spin on the traditional self-help/motivational tome which clogs up bookstores the planet over – Smith’s central thesis is that life is so unavoidably finite and essentially devoid of meaning that any minute spent doing something that you hate is a moment too long.
Admittedly, in Smith’s case, such vocational pursuits are usually studio films with a decent pay cheque attached but the point is well made – if you’re going to check out from this planetary orbit in thirty or so years, you may as well do so having spent your life engaged in things which make you happy.
Any ideas on how to turn wearing cargo shorts, liking unhip European metal bands and tickling my dog’s belly into a mortgage-paying career opportunity will be gratefully received.