[21 January 2009]
For a Smith diehard like myself, sitting down to the first entry in the now-popular “Evening with Kevin Smith” series was an engaging, revelatory experience; I had always known the man had mad skills when it came to writing witty, incisive dialogue, but I had no idea he was this funny. He struck the perfect balance of self-deprecating standup routine and honest Q&A session with your favorite writer/director. And the most important ingredient in this unlikely concoction? Organic flow (no doubt something Smith would turn into a hilarious poo joke): the fact that not a moment of it felt staged or planned.
Evening 2 (unfortunately named “Evening Harder”) came a bit later and, while it was obviously more of the same, it still managed to strike the nice balance of the first and be worth your time. Sadly, with the new release of the even more embarrassingly titled Threevening With Kevin Smith, the honey pot has obviously run dry. What once was a happy accident of wit and fan service has turned into a stab at manufactured lunacy.
In case it wasn’t clear already, the Evening series has never ever been about appealing to people outside Smith’s demographic. Several dick jokes per minute are still made, talks explicitly about nerddom and its subjects are frequent, and occasionally the fellating of inanimate objects happens. The only difference this time is that he’s shouldering the “work” himself rather than recruiting fictional characters to play out his hilarious nonsense. In fact, no one who’s not Smith plays any role in this DVD whatsoever, aside from a quick, boring introduction done by his wife and daughter. It’s 240-minutes of pure Smith, take it or leave it.
But that was okay in the past (yes, there were guests, most notably Jason Mewes, but the deal really was four solid hours of Kevin Smith hijinks), so why not this time around? One could cite the fact that this is Round 3, and that the whole shtick is getting tiresome and even the most devoted fan would be forced to agree. The main reason the original Evening seemed so brilliant is it was so unexpected; catching devoted fans off guard like that can yield some pretty crazy results.
However, I present a different problem all together: Smith’s “material” this time around has little to nothing to do with his career as a filmmaker; only a slight anecdote about Mewes during the filming of Clerks 2 and tangent about his miniscule role in Live Free, Die Hard somewhat fit the bill (and even then, it’s not about one of his films). As far as the humor level goes, the stories are still decently funny, but in abandoning his method of bullsh***** about his films or failed projects he has effectively lost his unique point of view and simply becomes another comedian with a routine… far less interesting.
And while it’s still mildly humorous, the stories range from simply enjoyable to near insulting; know that “insulting” from a Kevin Smith fan means you’re really plumbing the depths. One story that sticks out particularly well (in the bad way) is an entire bit dedicated to his dogs. First, understand that this “bit” lasts close to an hour when all is said and done; next, understand that it simply is not funny and falls into the dangerous category of “lewd for lewd’s sake”. Topping off the irritation, truly devoted fans will notice that the story is ripped nearly wholesale from Smith’s weekly pod cast in a shameless repackaging of material. Since the potential market for the podcast and the DVD is nearly identical, I interpret this as a clear sign of disregard for the audience.
That’s not to say all the stories are unfunny retreads; far from it. An entire chapter on anal fissures and jury duty (the two worst things in life) is absolutely side-splitting and is the one time where you forget that it has nothing to do with Smith’s career because it’s just that funny.
But the few moments of standout simply are not enough to remedy the fact that Smith clearly did not try very hard, this time around. The seams show more than ever with him showing up with prepared material and just barely linking it to the fan questions, and that’s just a shame. Let’s hope this is Smith’s last foray into his Evenings, since they have been progressively less about actually spending an evening with him and more about him spending the coin made from that evening.