View, a Skewed- The Shared Universe of Kevin Smith, Ranked
Kevin Smith is one of the most divisive filmmakers since Roman Polanski. The difference being, of course, that Polanski raped a girl and Smith just makes weird movies. If you were to go onto any comments section involving Smith, however, you might think he killed a puppy and wiped his once-ample-but-now-significantly-smaller butt with the original prints of Citizen Kane.
Once heralded as a hero to aspiring filmmakers, Smith now finds himself with the ire of many critics and keyboard warriors alike. Smith has made a lot of money for a lot of people, including himself, but he has also made films, seemingly, just to see if he could. The results of these “personal dares” are films like Tusk and Yoga Hosers. These aren’t…great movies, per say, but they matter to Smith. And if a filmmaker isn’t telling the stories that he or she wants to tell, then what’s the point? It doesn’t matter if that story is about a woman named Sophie who needs to make a choice, or If it’s about a man being turned into a mutant walrus.
…yeah, that’s not a great premise. Still, though, Smith has made great films and many of them take place in the same cinematic universe. You see, Smith is an innovator. He was overlapping characters and plots in different movies long before Sam Jackson showed up in Iron Man, talking about an Avengers Initiative.
Most of the View Askewniverse movies are pretty good and they show that Kevin Smith does have talent; a lot of it, actually. They also show a lot of heart, something that is present in all of Smith’s films. We’re not here to discuss Zack and Miri Make a Porno, however. We’re here to discuss Kevin Smith’s shared universe, as we present View, a Skewed- The Shared Universe of Kevin Smith, Ranked.
#6) Clerks II- 2006
Clerks II is a sequel to, perhaps, Kevin Smith’s most beloved film- Clerks. While the original Clerks shows two individuals who still have their whole lives ahead of them, in the sequel, the characters of Dante and Randal are now in their 30’s and have just lost their (admittedly crappy) jobs at the beloved (or behated) convenience store. They find new jobs at Mooby’s, a fast food restaurant based on a familiar franchise.
The first Clerks was an example of an ordinary day in the lives of two 20-something slackers. It was sharply written, cleverly filmed and has become somewhat of a manifesto for young people who know they’re meant to do something important; it just isn’t this. Clerks II is less optimistic than its predecessor (if you forget about the original’s alternate ending), but it still has just as much heart. Watching Clerks II as a 30-year-old might just make you feel better about your own life. Yeah, your job sucks and you’re still single, but at least you’re not Dante or Randal.
Purchase now on Amazon for $7.99.
#5) Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back- 2001
Usually designated to show-stealing side characters, this 2001 film allows Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith, himself) to take front and center as they plot to stop the production of a movie based on a comic book, that was based on their lives. Mother f*cking Holden McNeil; this is all his fault. Jay and Silent Bob believe that they are owed royalties based on the use of their likeness, but McNeil, the co-writer of the comic series, sold his rights to Banksy Edwards. Jay and Silent Bob then set out on a quest to either stop the production of the movie or to get the royalties that they believe are rightfully owed to them. Those blunts aren’t gonna buy themselves, y’know?
Jay and Silent Bob is not the best film in the View Askewniverse, but it might be the funniest. Featuring a plethora of cameos from stars like Will Ferell, Judd Nelson, Ali Larter, Wes Craven, Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Chris Rock, Mark Hamill, Shannon Elizabeth, Eliza Dushku, Jason Biggs and Dawson, himself, James Van Der Beek. This movie has everything one would expect from a Kevin Smith film- plenty of swearing, poop jokes and drug references, but it humanizes Jay and Silent Bob more than any previous film has done. There is a reason that Jay and Silent Bob are the most recurring characters throughout the View Askewniverse; they’re clearly the best, most well-written characters in the series. And no, we’re not just saying that because we don’t want them to come to our house and beat us up.
Purchase now on Amazon for $9.04.
4) Mallrats- 1995
The mall industry might be dying (thanks a lot, Amazon), but good luck making an entire film about a guy shopping online. Meanwhile, Mallrats was the perfect configuration of 90’s awesomeness. It told the story of T.S. (Jeremy London) and his best friend, Brodie (Jason Lee). While Clerks was about a day in the life of two convenience store, um, clerks, Mallrats is about a day in the life of two comic book nerds hanging out in a mall. Smith’s movies prove that, sometimes, the best stores aren’t about plot; they’re about character.
Every character that Smith has created in his shared universe are fascinating. This includes the lesser-used-in-other-films T.S. He and his girlfriend just broke up because she’s going to be on a dating show being filmed at a mall. Because this is a Smith movie, the two slackers must now find the strength and will to stop the evil production before, T.S loses Brandi (Claire Forlani) forever. Additionally, Brodie’s girlfriend left him for sleazy store manager Shannon (Ben Affleck), so he must be stopped as well.
Perhaps more than any other film, Mallrats is a love letter to comic fans. Smith has been a fan of comic books his entire life, even writing some of his own, and this film shows his passion for that medium. Look for a cameo for Stan Lee as well. See- Smith was doing Marvel before Marvel was doing Marvel!
Purchase now on Amazon for $12.99.
3) Chasing Amy- 1997
It’s happened to the best of us. You’re a struggling comic book artist who stumbles across the love of your life. The only problem is, she’s gay and now you’re confused. She is, too and now you both must navigate a very dysfunctional relationship while also maintaining a relationship with your roommate/partner who is homophobic and insecure. That’s basically a very simple plot description for a very complicated film.
Chasing Amy is, again, not so much about the story as it is about character. Smith writes his characters based on personal experiences, one of which he shares under his Silent Bob personae in this movie. Nothing really happens in this movie, at least nothing that affects anybody besides the main players. But when it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes the things that matter least to other people are the things that keep us up at night.
Ben Affleck stars as Holden McNeil, four years before he ruins the lives of Jay and Silent Bob. In this film, he’s only intent on destroying his own life, and maybe the aforementioned lesbian, Alyssa Jones (played by Joey Lauren Adams). He doesn’t mean to fall in love with her, we never do. But that’s what happens when you’re a hopeless romantic, like McNeil. You want things to end like a storybook, but your own insecurities destroy your happily-ever-after, and you spend the rest of your life “chasing Amy, so to speak.”
Purchase now on Amazon for $7.97.
2) Dogma- 1999
This might not be Smith’s best film, but it’s certainly his most important. When Smith wrote Dogma, a film centered around two fallen angels who find a loophole to get back into Heaven, but in doing so could bring about the apocalypse, he wanted to say something about religion, about grace and about faith, both in God and in one another. Dogma is a comedy, and it’s hilarious, but there’s also something much deeper at play. While irreverent and borderline disrespectful to the Catholic Church (though, who are they to throw stones these days, yea?), Dogma plays with the ideas of several doctrines that actually point to the existence of a forgiving and merciful God. I mean, if Jay and Silent Bob can be prophets, the rest of us should be pretty okay.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon star in this film, as fallen angels Loki and Bartleby. They’re not bad guys, per say. They’re just, much like Satan himself, misunderstood. At least that’s what they tell people. They love God and think humans are a waste of space. They want to get back to Heaven where they think they belong, but standing between them and the gates of paradise are our two aforementioned stoner buddies, as well as Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, Linda Florentino, Alan Rickman, and even Alanis Morissette.
Dogma is an important movie once you remove the dick jokes and self-referential bits that find their way into all of Smith’s movies. It’s one of our favorites and it was actually pretty ahead of its time. Don’t believe us? Watch it now, and see what it has to say about the future of the world. Then compare it to what we’re currently living in.
Purchase now on Amazon for $22.50.
1) Clerks- 1994
This is the film that started it all. It launched the career of Kevin Smith and it showed the world that you need a huge budget to make a good movie. You just need a good story, relatable characters and a hell of a lot of heart. Clerks has all of the above, which is kind of funny when you realize it isn’t even really about anything.
Clerks focuses on Dante, who is called into work on his day off to cover a shift at a New Jersey convenience store. That’s all. But we spend the day with Dante and his friend Randal, as well as Jay, Silent Bob, and various supporting characters. We begin to actually love these characters, because they are us or, at the very least, somebody we know. Clerks isn’t about anything, but it’s about everything. It’s about getting older and falling in and out of love. Clerks is about death and disappointment, love and loss and hockey. It was, and is, one of the best independent films of all time and we have it to thank, or blame, for the rise of Kevin Smith and all of his subsequent films, comics, podcasts, and television shows.
Clerks isn’t a great movie, nobody would dispute that. It’s an honest one, though and that, perhaps more than anything, is what Kevin Smith movies are. They’re honest. They tell the truth, or at least the truth how Kevin Smith sees it. Clerks was an example of a man taking what little he had and multiplying it tenfold. It is proof that dreams can come true if you work for them. It’s also proof that one can find happiness in even the most meaningless ventures, like talking about movies or playing hockey on the roof. More than anything, though, Clerks is proof that Kevin Smith really is just one of us- a fan with a good heart and a story to tell.
Not bad for a guy who “wasn’t even supposed to be here.”
Purchase now on Amazon for $9.99.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.