Shout! Factory // 2011 // 200 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 18th, 2011
Tracking the turbulent year in his life in which he was tossed from the sky.
In the midst of helming the underwhelming Apatow knock-off Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Kevin Smith came to the realization that he had fallen out of love with making movies. His passion for his work had vanished, and so he began crafting an exit strategy. He claims that after his hockey epic Hit Somebody has been completed, he'll set directing aside and simply focus on what he does best: talk. And talk, and talk, and talk, undoubtedly. Has there ever been another celebrity so eager to share every thought, story, and moment of his life with an audience? Smith tweets incessantly, blogs regularly, participates in countless podcasts, hosts all sorts of live chat-fests and is well-known for his long, sprawling Q&A sessions (according to testimonials from Smith's co-workers on a featurette included with this set, it's not uncommon for such sessions to carry on for six or seven hours).
The assorted An Evening with Kevin Smith specials have been reasonably engaging and well-received demonstrations of the writer/director's charm and candor, so it's no surprise that he's delivering another not-stand-up-comedy stand-up special in the form of Kevin Smith: Too Fat for 40. I saw the two-hour version of the special on Netflix shortly before receiving this Blu-ray release, and found it an unexpected disappointment. While there were certainly some fun moments, there were too many pieces of needless padding, too many pointlessly self-indulgent stories and far too many moments of wallowing in self-pity. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that this version of the special runs a whopping 200 minutes. Yes, you read that correctly. 200 minutes of Kevin Smith rambling about what's been happening in his life over the past few years.
Perhaps that sounds like fun. Before seeing Too Fat for 40, I probably would have agreed with you. I've really enjoyed Smith's previous outings along these lines, but this one features way too much of the passive-aggressive, artificial self-deprecation which has made Smith such a frustrating figure in recent times. Smith goes out of his way to present himself as a humble guy who's well aware of his shortcomings: he constantly berates his own directing abilities, acknowledges his lack of technical knowledge, admits that Zack and Miri wasn't very good and that Cop Out basically sucked, confesses to allowing pot to become a major part of his life and shape his work as a director and makes countless jokes about his considerable weight.
Smith comes across as a refreshingly honest charmer at times, but all of this material is bogged down by the knowledge that he's far less graceful when he's being criticized by anyone other than himself. It's hard to reconcile the man cheerfully beating up on Cop Out in this special with the man who threw an ungainly temper tantrum when critics cheerfully beat up on Cop Out upon its release. I suppose such outside knowledge should technically be set aside when reviewing a self-contained special, but that's hard to do in this case given that Too Fat for 40 is nothing more than Smith talking about himself, his personal life, his film career and his assorted reactions to events occurring in all of these areas.
If there's an overriding theme to this 200-minute marathon, it's that Kevin Smith really likes pot now. Seriously, he really, really, really likes pot, as he informs us via a series of surprisingly bland stories which fill us in on how he learned to stop worrying and love the bong. Smith admits early on that he isn't a stand-up comedian, but a stand-up comic's timing and precision would have been required to redeem this material. There are some entertaining punch lines and fun moments lurking within Smith's words, but they're overwhelmed by the weak delivery and the excess of pointless chatter. Other stories involving a couple of brushes with law enforcement and lessons about homosexuality Smith's learned from his gay friend are similarly overlong affairs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best stuff (and there is some) comes when Smith talks about movies and the filmmaking process. In particular, his lengthy exploration of his complicated relationship with Bruce Willis is fascinating; a painfully funny cautionary tale about what can happen when a director permits a difficult actor to take control. As painted by Smith, Willis comes across as the world's biggest tool; an unrelentingly stubborn man who has minimal interest in his craft these days. The frustrations of making a more traditional studio film are outlined in detail, and Smith's eagerness to burn bridges adds an extra measure of entertainment to the proceedings. If Too Fat for 40 had been a leaner, tighter special centered around this material (and running, say, 80-90 minutes), it could have been a blast. As it is, it's just overkill. Smith just doesn't have enough of interest to say to merit the butt-numbing Godfather Part II running time.
Kevin Smith: Too Fat for 40 arrives on Blu-ray sporting a perfectly acceptable 1080p/1.78:1 transfer. I can't help but wonder why anyone is even bothering with a Blu-ray release, as you're not going to see much of anything aside from the star's increasingly sweaty face as the evening proceeds. It's crisp, clear and you'll see Mr. Smith in the glory of 1080p, but there's not really much to comment on otherwise. Similarly, audio is solid but unspectacular. Smith's voice is strong and resonant, crowd noise is reasonably well-distributed and the very small amount of music featured at the beginning is well-captured. That's it. The package promises hours of supplemental material, but it's actually a bit less than that: a DVD featuring a 49-minute follow-up Q&A session (I actually enjoyed this a little more than the special itself, as Smith generously indulges even the most preposterous of questions -- sometimes a little too generously, such as when he contemplates the role of a Fleshlight in a successful marriage) and a 7-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.
While there are some choice moments in Kevin Smith: Too Fat for 40, this one is a strictly for-Smith-junkies-only affair. That's a shame, because with some merciless trimming and a greater sense of focus on Smith's part, it could have been a lot of fun.
Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Shout! Factory
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 200 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated