"The Return Of Jay & Silent Bob"
by Erik Dahl
****& 1/2 (OUT OF 5)

After "Mallrats," Kevin Smith's last movie, absolutely bombed at the box office, fans of "Clerks" had reason to be apprehensive about his latest movie. Fortunately, "Chasing Amy" lives up to and exceeds the high expectations set by "Clerks" with more of Smith's flowing dialogue and startlingly direct humor in an amazingly personal and touching script. "Chasing Amy" centers around the lives of Holden McNeil (Ben Affleck) and Banky Edwards (Jason Lee). The 2 have been best friends for years and now live together in an apartment that doubles as the studio for their hit indie comic 'Bluntman and Chronic.' Holden falls for fellow comic book writer named Alyssa Jones (Joey Lauren Adams). As he begins to feel a real connection with her, he finds, to his dismay, that she's a lesbian. Banky, of course, finds the situation hilarious, but begins to get annoyed when Holden pursues a relationship with her anyway. The bulk of the movie deals with Holden, Banky, and Alyssa working out their respective relationships. Throughout the movie, the script does an amazing job of dealing with touchy issues in a sensitive and personal way. While it would have been easy for this movie to fall into stereotypes about 'what women really want,' "Chasing Amy" is more complex than that. First of all, lesbianism plays a secondary role in the movie - it's really a love story, plain & simple. Second, the movie throws a lot of our stereotypes at us and its characters, but then proceeds to break them down and demonstrate how silly they are. Discussion of social issues aside, "Chasing Amy" really shines through its characters. Affleck, Adams, and Lee each portray their characters with integrity and emotion. Adams' secretive smiles and seething rages are a true discovery, overcoming her annoying Meg Tilly voice. Affleck does a great job as the emotionally tormented Holden. Finally, Jason Lee hides a surprising amount of thought in a role that could have easily been merely comic relief. Of course, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith are back as Jay & Silent Bob, who are now collecting likeness fees from Holden & Banky for their comic. Silent Bob's sage-like advice stretches to a full-fledged story this time, revealing the meaning of the movie's title. Jay & Silent Bob do a great job of lightening up the movie while adding a lot of meaning, as does Dwight Ewell's portrayal of Hooper X. Hooper is a gay black comic book writer who puts on a facade of militant black anger to sell his comic 'White Hating Coon.' Bottom line, go see this movie. "Chasing Amy" takes on daring subject matter, and presents it honestly and personally. You'll not only have a good laugh, you'll be genuinely touched and probably come away with something to think about as well.