The inaccurately named New Jersey Trilogy is a series of five comedies written and directed by filmmaker Kevin Smith. The films usually feature scatological humor, jokes about relationships, mentions of the number 37, and references to obscure television shows, comic books, hockey, Jaws, and Star Wars. If you like the movie, it comes together into a spirited, fast-flowing conversation that illuminates life and makes you laugh your ass off. If you don't, it’s a yapping, jumbled mess.
The Jersey films take place in a realm referred to by fans as the Askewniverse and are all linked by characters, themes and events and each contains numerous references to the others. Many of the Askewniverse characters know each other and most went to high school together. All of the movies also feature the drug dealing hetero-life mates Jay and Silent Bob.
The movies have attracted a devoted cult following, especially on DVD where Smith releases them in lavish special editions filled with extra features. There is also a series of comic books that expand the universe, especially the adventures of Jay and Silent Bob that take place between the movies. Clerks was also the subject of an animated television series on ABC.
Clerks (1994) – The story of a day in the life of Dante Hicks, a counter jockey at the Quick Stop, a New Jersey convenience store. Dante has to deal with Randal, the slacker who runs the video store, Jay and Silent Bob, who keep selling drugs outside the store and harassing his customers, jizz moppers, idiot customers, and he’s not even supposed to be there today!. Dante is also worried that his ex-girlfriend, whom he is still in love with, is getting married and his current girlfriend keeps bugging him to quit his job and go back to college.
This ultra low-budget film catapulted Smith to stardom and is generally liked by both his fans and regular moviegoers. It’s the best pure showcase for Smith’s writing style and is totally hilarious.
Some Askewniverse references and common themes: Veronica has sucked 37 dicks. Dante and Randal debate which was the best Star Wars movie and what happened to all the independent contractors that worked on the second Death Star. Dante closes the store to play hockey. Dante learns that Caitlin had sex with Rick Derris in high school.
Mallrats (1995) – Best friends T.S. and Brodie are dumped by their girlfriends on the same day. They both go to the mall to hang out where they meet Jay and Silent Bob, sabotage a TV dating game show, and attempt to win their girlfriends back.
Usually regarded as the favorite film among Smith’s rabid fans, Mallrats was a massive bomb during its initial release, but has found new life on DVD. The most standard comedy of the Jersey films, I initially found it funnier than Clerks, but as time has worn on it just seems really stupid, (and not in a good way) with too much prattling on about comics. Jason Lee (Brodie) simply steals every scene he is in away from the anemic Jeremy London (T.S.). This movie is ends up being worth it no matter what because the DVD has the funniest commentary track I have ever heard.
References/Themes:Brodie and Randal share a common cousin in the sexually adventurous Walter. Dante’s cousin Gil makes an appearance. Brodie plays Sega hockey. Comic god Stan Lee cameos. Gwen had sex with Rick Derris in high school. Silent Bob attempts to perform Jedi mind tricks. T.S. inadvertently causes the death of Julie Dwyer, whose funeral Dante and Randal had attended in Clerks.
Chasing Amy (1997) – Holden and Banky are best friends and authors of a popular comic book called "Bluntman and Chronic" (based on Jay and Silent Bob). Holden falls for lesbian comic book artist Alyssa and their burgeoning relationship strains his friendship with Banky.
The best of the Jersey Trilogy, as it really tries to deal with issues about love, trust and friendship instead of just being a comedy. This movie is about missed opportunities; it’s about regret and watching beautiful things crumble because of jealousy. It’s fucking wonderful and heart wrenching at the same time. I think that every guy has had a “Holden in the car” moment in his life.
References/Themes:The news clippings during the opening feature the number 37. Hooper discusses racism in Star Wars. Alyssa is the sister of Tricia Jones from Mallrats. During the oral sex injury discussion, many characters are mentioned that appeared in previous movies. Alyssa mentions the incident where Caitlin fucked a dead guy in Clerks. Banky plays Sega hockey. Alyssa had sex with Rick Derris in high school.
Dogma (1999) – Jay and Silent Bob team up with the lost 13th apostle, a stripper/muse and the last descendant of Jesus to prevent two evil angels from entering a cathedral in New Jersey and negating all existence.
I never liked Dogma, it’s filled with long bits of exposition that discuss theology and just seem to go nowhere. The actors struggle to get their lines out while still making sense and the ideas that the movie tries to get across are too big for the resources at Smith’s disposal. It’s like I said at the top: a yapping, jumbled mess.
References/Themes:The Stygian triplets use hockey sticks. Jay mentions the cantina scene from Star Wars. Dante's cousin Grant is a reporter. The angels take Derris Bus Lines to New Jersey.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) – Dante finally calls the cops to arrest Jay and Silent Bob and they find out that Banky sold the movie rights to the “Bluntman and Chronic” comic book without paying for their likenesses. The duo goes on a cross-country journey to Hollywood in order to prevent the film from being made.
The final film in the series tries to be a big comedy extravaganza filled with references to the rest of the Trilogy and celebrity cameos, and it ends up succeeding only because of the sheer amount of material it throws up against the wall. This movie is really funny, but has a low batting average. I must admit that the C.L.I.T. conversation between Jon Stewart and Will Ferrell gets me every time. Like all of Smith’s DVDs, it is still worth the rental.
References/Themes:The whole damn movie.
Kevin Smith has stated that he is done making films featuring "dick and fart jokes" and his next movie Jersey Girl supposedly reflects more adult sensibilities. Recently Smith has gone back on this and said that he may make another Jay and Silent Bob movie as a reward to Jason Mewes if Mewes manages to kick his recently-revealed heroin addiction.
I didn't even have to rewatch the movies or consult any outside sources for this writeup. That's how sick I am.