- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2006 1 Jan
When Kevin Smith's Dogma stirred up a storm of controversy among Christian moviegoers with its witty and wise observations about faith and culture—as well as its avalanche of profanity and crass dialogue—it seemed that Smith had taken a bold step into more ambitious moviemaking.
His next move was even more surprising. Having cultivated a large fan base with films like Clerks and Chasing Amy, which were populated by talky, smart, and relentlessly crass characters, the director moved on to Jersey Girl, a warm-hearted comedy about family. The film seemed surprisingly sentimental, and he readily admitted that when I interviewed him for Christianity Today Movies upon its arrival. Granted, it still contained some unusually frank conversations about sexuality and misbehavior, but it suggested that he might be tiring of films about slackers and foul-mouthed kids.
Alas, Jersey Girl bombed at the box office, and Smith has apparently responded by returning to what worked. Clerks 2 is another movie that could cause cardiac arrest with those who sit counting cuss words. But Smith's affection for these reckless, irresponsible characters still shines through, and the film suggests that he can see some value and promise in their relationships and ideals.
Christian film critics are disappointed, to say the least.
Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) says, "I know Smith has garnered something of a fan base for his uneven film output over the last decade or so since the low-budget Clerks put him on the map. And, yes, I know I'm not in that target audience. I even realize that those fans may find here plenty of the material that worked for them in the past. I'm OK with the fact that I just don't get the appeal of this relentlessly crude, blasphemous, degrading experience. What surprises me, though, is just how many people do get it—and love it."
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "There is an occasional wisp of wit, but for the most part the writing is utterly sophomoric and smutty. There's also a message about friendship and staying true to yourself near the end and a pinch of sweet romance … but that hardly excuses the wall-to-wall vulgarity, much of which redefines distasteful, that precedes it. At one point Dante asks Randal why he enjoys indulging in such juvenility. The same question could be posed to Smith."
Mainstream critics, on the other hand, are divided, many of them finding it to be a worthwhile, observant perspective on a community of cultural rebels.