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By David Young · November 14, 2022
Like many filmmakers of his ilk, Kevin Smith has managed to not only take genre, in his case, stoner comedies, to new heights but create an entire cinematic universe in which his characters live, grow, and spin off on their own unique adventures. The View Askewniverse, named after Smith’s production company, View Askew, gives audiences a view of the world from the perspective of the stoner sage, asking philosophical questions about the absurdities of real life — whether that “real life” includes angels and demons or convenience store clerks coming in on their day off.
Take a look below to see the most well-known View Askewniverse films and the ridiculous brand of comedy that exists within each one.
It starts as a “day in the life” story about two clerks, but Clerks accomplishes much more — the only black-and-white film in the View Askewniverse has two guys, Dante and Randal, talking about relationships among other things. As they go about their days with less and less work getting accomplished, and when they face mortality, the main struggle becomes clear: a choice between the two women with whom Dante is involved. But there’s an absurd element to this as his fear-driven choice ultimately leads to a disastrous outcome.
As Dante and Randal face the consequences of their day, they come to terms with their lack of motivation and willpower (among other things) as the reasons they feel stuck in dead-end jobs. It’s this driven component of determining self-worth that gets captured so clearly in the characters’ interactions, and Kevin Smith is more than willing to turn a normal day on its head to get a result like that!
Most would probably agree that Kevin Smith’s masterpiece (so far) is Clerks, but his second addition to the View Askewniverse, Mallrats is a worthy contender. The 1995 film features everything that made the 90s great: malls, a great alt-rock soundtrack, and duh, Shannen Doherty. The film follows two friends, T.S. (Jeremy London) and Brodie (Jason Lee) who are dumped by their girlfriends and spend the day at a shopping mall trying to win them back.
While Mallrats didn’t find the same level of success as Clerks, it has still become a cult classic, especially among Kevin Smith fans. The film features great dialogue, a top-notch cast, and serves as a perfect example of Smith’s filmmaking style.
It’s a hard one to swallow, of course. Chasing Amy is part of the same universe, though, and it poses some specific questions about the world that need answering, just like the rest of Smith’s films in the View Askewniverse. Chasing Amy begs the question, “What do expectations do to relationships?” This question gets asked in other forms, of course: When someone tries to forge a friendship only for his sexual interest, what does that do to the friendship? What happens when someone isn’t straightforward about her wants, her needs, and her past? And what expectations can cause irreparable rifts in a friendship?
Ultimately, the movie functions on a few flawed assumptions, but that makes it all the more important to ask questions — and if you want to learn from those questions, Chasing Amy is still worth reading.
Kevin Smith does every movie with a hint of satire and thought behind it — and Dogma is the prime example. A fictional representation of Catholicism brings to life two fallen angels whose attempts to escape exile create a contingent threat to existence itself. The absurdity that follows all exists to question aspects of organized religion and the dogma behind it all.
Due to its wildly philosophical attitude, this film also got some heat from the Catholic Church itself — to the point where disclaimers have been placed at the beginning of the movie. You know, just in case you weren’t sure how real this sci-fi fantasy movie is.
A classic stoner comedy becomes an adventure film in this spiritual “endquel” to the film, Clerks. This is not about the main characters of that film, of course: It’s about Jay and Silent Bob, the drug dealers that run into Dante and Randal on their fateful day. If there’s anything consistent about this film, it’s definitely the element of absurdity escalating things so highly in each new step of the duo’s journey to reclaim their own image or sell it. From the beginning, questions are raised by the two men getting to become the inspiration for a hit comic book.
However, when that comic book becomes popular enough to warrant a film, Jay and Silent Bob decide they want in — or they will take their identities with them. Things only get crazier from there as they become unwitting patsies in a heist, blackmail the man who violated their original likeness rights and get revenge on the nay-sayers of their comic book characters. This satirical installation also gives a lot of Hollywood commentary at every turn, raising questions about what is accomplished by the duo when they walk away.
While Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was intended as an end to the View Askewniverse, that didn’t stop Kevin Smith. He kept the universe going yet again with a new installment following his first View Askew protagonists, Dante and Randal. Now working fast food, the duo have a lot more to contend with as Dante is an engaged man about to start a family life. The philosophical nature of this film has to do with choices and the direction of someone’s life, just like in the first installment.
Dante’s choices again have a lot to do with his treatment of women and his infidelity — so much so that in the end, he and his fiancée Emma part ways in the most abrupt way, and his life eventually becomes what it was before her. In fact, he and Randal share an inability to grow, as Randal can’t move past having his friend and Dante can’t hold a relationship. The broken, cyclical nature of their lives is displayed in full throttle when the film ends in black and white, the screen showing us what we saw in the previous film ten years before.
Kevin Smith is a writer-director whose visions have differed in many iterations, from straight-up comedies to satirical sci-fi and drama. Whatever the story, though, he uses his universe — and the recurring characters like Jay and Silent Bob — to bring up important questions about life. Whether they’re questions about dogmatic worldviews or about one’s direction in life, you can find some of Smith’s scripts, which ask these questions (and attempt to answer them).
If you want to hear from the director himself, listen to our interview with Kevin Smith on The Script Lab Podcast.