It was a big day this past Tuesday for the House that Clerks built as 3 brand new DVD/Blu-rays from Kevin Smith and Company hit the retail market: Red State, Too Fat for 40!, and Smodimations Season One.
Long time listeners will know that I am a huge fan of Kevin Smith and when there’s a multiple DVD release on a single day, I am all over it. However, Since I already gave a glowing review to Red State (The horror/thriller directed by Kevin and released independantly through Smodcast Pictures) back in August when the Red Province Tour hit Toronto, I will not be reviewing it here. All I will say is that the film is fantastic and you should pick it up on Disc or at least stream it on netflix today. Instead I wanted to focus my attention on something I have not yet reviewed. So I sat down in front of my t.v. and got ready to laugh.
First up was Smodimations: Season One. Smodimations is a series of cartoon shorts created by Steve Stark of Starktoons using Smodcast, the popular Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier Podcast, for it’s audio track. The series has been running online at Smodcast.com and on youtube for over a year now and is currently in it’s second season. This disc takes the many episodes and weaves them together for a semi-feature length veiwing. When I say weaves them together, I mean that it adds animation to connect the pieces. It does not try to assemble a plot out of these vignettes. That would be quite a feat if he did, but I don’t think it would ultimately change the level of enjoyment. And Enjoyment it is. Smith and Mosier riff on how Aquaman is a glorified surf cop, how there may be more to lives of Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, and the various adventures they’ve been on the entire time without a script or any plan on where they might go (as it is a podcast after all). Stark takes these crazy tales and brings forth the visuals that would never make it into a network cartoon. If you’re a fan of Smodcast, it’s like seeing the pictures that were in your head coming to life. If you’ve never listed to Smodcast in your life, it’s just really fucking funny. The animation has a loony toons feel to it which adds to the madcap hilarity. It was a fun ride, and even though I had watched them all individually before online, it was a nice treat watching them together as one feature. The presentation begins and ends with some “live action” schtick with Smith and Mosier, and Jason Mewes even makes an appearance at the end. Definitely one to watch. The disc also comes with two extras – live recordings of two of Smith’s other podcasts – Hollywood Babble On with Kev and Ralph Garman, and Jay and Silent Bob Get Old, which obviously stars Smith and Jay Mewes. Both were recorded live at the Jon Lovitz podcast theatre. I highly recommend Smodimations Season One to any fan of Smith and raunchy cartoons.
I followed up Smodimations with Too Fat for 40! This is a live spoken word concert that Smith held at the Count Basie Theater on his 40th birthday. It is the 4th in the series of “Evening with Kevin Smith” DVDs that have been released over the past 9 years. For those not familiar with the Evening With series, Smith is know for his speaking engagements that he performs around the world. They are done in a Q&A style with the floor being open to all who attend. If you bought a ticket, you can go up to the mic and ask a question. Kevin is quick to point out that this is not Stand Up. His answers to questions may be lead to funny stories, but he has no set plan of where he wants to to go when he hits the stage. Aside from his anecdotes on his life in the movie business, the other thing that makes these concerts special is his interaction with his fans. He can really get into some entertaining debates with some fans, and create some funny schtick wth others. So, to me, that is why Too Fat for 40! falls a bit flat. Smith hits the stage (which does look amazing as it is a mock up of the Quick Stop and RST Video) and sets up the night as he always does, by setting up the ground rules for the night on how and when he’ll be answering questions. He opens up the floor and the first question is asked – “What has it like to finally work with Bruce Willis?” and what follows is over 3 hours of Smith talking. He eventually answers the question, but keeps on going. It’s like watching Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – it seems he’s afraid that he stops talking, he’ll loose the floor. At the end of the night, Smith jokes that the event was a Q&A, and since there’s only one A in the title, he feels that he met the requirements. It’s not to say that what he says isn’t funny or entertaining. It’s just that he brought forth the set up for one thing and gave us another. He did a stand up special, which is great, but he made it 3 times longer than any stand up show I’ve ever seen. Now there were some great bits in the mix: Smith talk candidly about his love of George Carlin, what it was like to direct/be directed by Bruce Willis, his travels across the border on a Prom Bus, and a time when the cops showed up at his house because they thought there was a hostage situation. All great stuff. He also talks about stuff that if you’re a fan of Smith, you’ve probably already heard: His love affair with Weed, his troubles with SouthWest Airlines and so on. They are great stories, but if you’ve listened to Smodcast or caught any interview with him in the past 2 years, you’ve already heard it. This may have to do with the fact that this special was shot back in August of 2010 – But even then, some of these stories were quite well known. In the end, I feel that this “Uncut” show could have benefitted from some editing – something the 3 “Evening With” features all took advantage of. That’s all that was really missing. If the show had been tightened up, it would have been perfect. And if Smith is going to go the spoken word route instead of Q&A style, he might want to take a cue from Henry Rollins and pair down his show to a tight 2 hours. Overall, it’s a good watch, but be prepared for a long show. I don’t think I would recommend buying it, but it’s worth a rental.
So to sum up:
RED STATE – BUY IT!
Smodimations Season 1 – BUY IT!
Too Fat for 40! – RENT IT!
And if you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!