OK, Clerks you can forgive because it was Smith's first feature and he had no money. But should I let shoddiness slide four films in? Smith has some professionals to work with now. But Alan Rickman, Chris Rock and Selma Hayek just seemed lost, not knowing what tone to aim for -- how arch or how serious each line was supposed to be. Linda Fiorentino is TERRIBLE. I really liked her sarcastic resignation in Men In Black, but Bethany's character requires something more than that. And Smith really cannot film conversation scenes w/o making them look like bad tv. Dude, give me an over or a two-shot or make the camera MOVE a little, rather than just cut to the next facial expression... gods, this is just boring!

Smith does have a talent for writing. The best scene in the film is the marketing meeting being turned into a temple of idolatry (although it's slightly undermined by the lady in the boardroom being put on a pedestal). Rufus's injunction to stick with ideas rather than beliefs is also well-meaning (although once you start thinking about it, not all that substantial). The notion that religion is being undermined by its own pretensions to infallibility, its dogma, is a great hook for the whole film, but the relapse back into faith at the end is puzzling. I guess it is supposed to be -- Alanis Morrisette silently suggests that existence is just a benevolent joke. But my feeling is that Smith fudges the REALLY philosophical stuff by making God inexplicable.

Then there's Jay and Silent Bob. I'll admit to laughing at the former's torrential swearing and the latter lighting a smoke after throwing two guys off a train, but a lot of the other japes fell flat. These dudes are clowns, obv, but Smith has the tendency to celebrate their immature and offensive ways. He's not distant enough. Literally! He loves being a blunted, slacker-nerd who fetishizes black people and silently defends (fears) women... He's the comic-book guy who doesn't fully accept that you have to stop being a comic-book guy.

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