The Houston Chronicle review by Jeff Millar
We may not be at the end of history; but surely we are at the end of euphemism. Kevin Smith, who made CLERKS, MALLRATS, and the new film CHASING AMY, has a curious talent that you might even consider a calling. He escorts what some stick-in-the-muds might still call "vile language" over the line into ordinariness and helps it get over the loss of its ability to shock. It may still be a struggle for some, expecially those who are much past Smith's mid-20's demographic, to accept his use of language as anything more than boundary-testing. But his dialogue actually *resonates* with characters trying to figure out things in the idiom in which they are comfortable. What is required of viewers is a re-training that allows us to listen to whole sentences and not just the separate words that most filmmakers would use to startle us.
Smith's protagonist, males of his age group, treasure coolness above all. The cool cannot be shocked. Much of the humor of CHASING AMY derives from how young men struggle to appear cool while they're having their timbers shivered. It's also oddly sweet. The romance, aimed at males who wear their ball caps backward, displays old wisdoms about the sexual demons that come to call on guys of that age.
MALLRATS was a prototype of a sophomore jinx, but CHASING AMY is a wide growth ring on Smith's career. It's as funny as the observational outrage humor of CLERKS, but Smith is working harder. He's looking at relationships, life lessons, and the puzzlement of being young and not knowing as much as you think you do. In the story, Holden (Ben Affleck) and Banky (Jason Lee), best buddies since childhood, are the artist and inker for a comic-book series called BLUNTMAN AND CHRONIC.
The comic characters are based on Silent Bob and Jay, characters from CLERKS. Smith and Jason Mewes return briefly to play those roles; they pick up a sort of licensing fee from Holden for use of their personae. Smith begins at a comic-book convention, the typical patrons of Smith renders with withering accuracy. "Overweight or underweight guys who don't get (sex) are our market," Holden says.
There, Holden meets Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams), who draws a "chick's book"--to use the idiom of the industry. Holden is attracted to Alyssa, and she to him. But there is a complication: Alyssa is a lesbian. Holden is disappointed. But Alyssa wants to be his friend, so he'll be her friend. Just friends.
"This is going to end badly," says Banky, who ultimately tries to sabotage his friend's new friendship. Eventually, Banky has to ask himself why what he feels about Alyssa looks an awful lot like pure jealousy. The fact is, this will end badly only if you expect it to click into the slots of the typical boy-meets-girl Hollywood template. The characters do go through some bad patches, but they're young and they'll heal. The film's bittersweet ending feels a lot more like life than it does the movies.
Which is not to say Smith is immune to the lunar pull of the screen. In fact, the sweetest and best-written scene of his film--subtracting the verbal idiom--could have been plucked from any three-hankie '50s movie: a declaration of love and someone running into someone else's arms in a rainstorm.
It is somehow rassuring to see cool lying helpless at the feet of romance.