A few years ago, it appeared as though we were nearing the end of Kevin Smith’s career as a filmmaker. He had just snubbed the movie industry by forgoing a studio release in favor of rolling the film out throughout the country on his own. At the time, Smith had just parlayed his successful Smodcast podcasting network into a 24/7 internet radio station, all while he wrote his next book, starred in a film-reviewing series on Hulu, and continued touring of his wildly popular Q&A sessions.
He claimed he had one more movie in his arsenal, a hockey comedy called Hit Somebody, then he would be retiring from making movies. Soon later, Smith announced that Hit Somebody would be split into two movies, and soon after that he decided it would be a six-part miniseries.
Then, in December of 2012, he announced his last flick as writer/director would be a third installment of Clerks.
It would only be a matter of time until that took a back seat, though, as he was inspired to write a horror movie based on an episode of Smodcast. This one’s actually been made, it’s called Tusk, it stars Justin Long and Michael Parks, and it’s due out this September. The release of Tusk will coincide with the start of shooting his next film, Anti-Claus, also a horror film, and also starring Long and Parks.
If that’s not enough for Smith’s fans, this weekend at Comic-Con, he explained plans to expand the world of Tusk into a trilogy, with two more films whose ideas were conceived on his podcast.
So, as it turns out, Smith is doing anything but withdrawing himself creatively from the movie biz. And as he expands his filmmaking prowess into different genres and worlds, it’s as good a time as any to think back on how he got here. The indie darling from Jersey who cut his teeth on telling dirty jokes outside the Quick Stop.
He’s released exactly ten films to date, so let’s rank them from worst to best.
Image courtesy of: INFphoto.com
[ new page = Cop Out ]
One thing that even Mr. Smith will attest to is that his films aren’t made to rake in awards or critical acclaim, they’re made for him and his fans. This is why all of his films, even the ones that didn’t exactly take the world by storm, carry that certain charm that makes a Kevin Smith film a Kevin Smith film. All of his films, except Cop Out. That’s because it’s the lone film in his career that he’s directed, but not written. Unlike the other nine, it wasnt his brain child, he wasn’t directing his characters, they weren’t saying his words, and for that Cop Out is easy to dismiss as something other than a Kevin Smith production. It did, however, provide us a juicy helping of beef between Smith and Bruce Willis.
[ new page = Jersey Girl ]
If you’ve ever watched one of Smith’s Q&A sessions, you’ve probably heard him take a jab or two at Jersey Girl. But if you’d like to know the difference between a dud that Kevin didn’t see from the ground-up (like Cop Out and one that he did, look no further. While some of its criticisms are warranted, but make no mistake, this was not an endeavor that lacked soul. The Ben Affleck/Liv Tyler-lead comedy is coming from the right place, with all the heart and warmth that a younger, perhaps more immature Smith’s films did not have.
[ new page = Zack and Miri ]
8.Zack and Miri Make a Porno(2008)
This was supposed to be Silent Bob’s turn to make a high-grossing comedy. Working with Seth Rogen, who was hot off of Knocked Up,Superbad, and Pineapple Express, it seemed like a slam dunk. Zack and Miri won its opening weekend, and at over $31 million it was Smith’s highest grossing movie to date (Cop Out would later take its spot), but was still deemed by many to be a failure given Rogen’s status and the upward trend of R-rated comedies. It will never be known whether its controversial title helped or hurt it in the long run, but anyone who’s seen it knows it was much more than a compilation of cheap jokes and excessive raunch.
[ new page = Mallrats ]
This cult hit could have been perceived as a very ambitious follow-up to Clerks, or not very risky at all. Like Clerks, Mallrats takes place in a day (the day before the events of Clerks, and involves its main characters spending a whole lot of time loitering in a place of business.
[ new page = Jay & Silent Bob ]
6.Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back(2001)
This meta-movie goes great lengths to converge everything within the Askewniverse. Originally intended to be the final film set in the world of the Quick Stop (we’ve already learned how indecisive Smith can be), this gave fans what they’d been clamoring for: a full feature centered around everyone’s favorite foul-mouthed drug dealers.
[ new page = Clerks II ]
This is a movie that may have made fans cringe when they first heard it was in production. Sure, the world of Clerks had already been expounded upon with other films, but the idea of creating a sequel to something so singularly perfect seemed destined to fail. As it turned out, Clerks II didn’t so much go back to the well as it did make its own new film with Dante and Randall that is arguably more of a laugh-out-loud comedy than its quick-and-cleverly written predecessor. If nothing else, it was a worth venture for the character Elias (played by Trevor Fehrman).
[ new page = Red State ]
Smith’s last film was a complete departure for him, as well of a sample of what we can expect from him in the future. Red State was fun, fast, scary, and at times chilling. It was somewhat allegorical to the exploits of the Westboro Baptist Church (though Smith takes the necessary measures to distance the film’s religious cult from the real-life one), and Michael Parks and Melissa Leo as the leaders are downright frightening in great performances. Those who are deeply immersed in the horror genre may find themselves immune to the film’s twists and turns, but those who are versed on Smith’s screenwriting will find just enough of Kevin injected into it to appreciate it.
[ new page = Chasing Amy ]
With a Rotten Tomatos score of 90%, Chasing Amy is Smith’s best-reviewed film, which isn’t all that surprising. It’s got all the recurring Askewniverse characters, but it’s also the most accessible to the uninitiated Jay and Silent Bob fan. Joey Lauren Adams and Jason Lee turn in perfect performances, and Smith’s screenplay is a rare gem of a romantic comedy.
[ new page = Dogma ]
Smith’s follow up to Chasing Amy, it comes as a bit of a surprise that Dogma was born in the mind of Kevin Smith well before his days of heavy marijuana use, but I guess he’s never been a stranger to taking the topic of religion head-on.
[ new page = Clerks ]
The film that started it all. As legend has it, a young Kev Smith was inspired to make a film by Richard Linklater’s Slacker, so he gathered his friends, signed up for a bunch of credit cards, maxed them all out to the tune of about $30,000, shot it in the convenience store and video store that he worked at, got the film into Sundance, and eventually inspired the next generation(s) of filmmakers to tell their stories, no matter what the stakes are. Clerks both holds up as a comedy and stands out as a time capsule for the now-bygone era of the early 90’s. Punk rock, VHS tapes, and flannel shirts all helped earn Smith a spot in the class of breakthrough directors of the 90’s along with the likes of Linklater, Tarantino, Fincher, and Jonze.