In order to save himself some time and embarrassment, months ago Kevin Smith should have sent fruit baskets to right-wingers like myself with a polite note attached: Would you please get outraged over my new film “Red State?” I could really use the publicity. XXOO Kevin
I’m not above taking the bait now and again, but it was just so obvious what Smith’s gameplan was. He’d make a film attacking right-wing Christians, publicize that he was doing so, and from there we Wingers were all supposed to do the heavy lifting for him. We would submit our outrage online and on the cable nets, “Red State” would get a ton of free publicity and “controversy,” and then going into Sundance Smith would have on his hands a hot political football that some distributor excited over the prospect off pissing off Christians, would pick up. Smith probably had delusions of a culture war controversy matching the “Passion of the Christ.”
Now I’m something of a Kevin Smith admirer. I get the following he has. “Clerks” is great, “Chasing Amy” is borderline brilliant, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” is entertaining — and normally I like to help a brother out. But Smith was just too obvious with this one and insultingly lazy in the department of creativity. Attacking Christians? That’s the best he can do? “Law & Order” does that four or five times a week, depending on the number of franchises on the air. If I’m going to be manipulated into summoning righteous indignation, I expect a little more effort than that. If you want to get my outrage off, at the very least you could buy me a little dinner and put your tongue in my ear.
My indifference wasn’t calculated. It was utterly sincere. First off, I will never go within a country mile of sounding anything like a Fred Phelps apologist. Secondly, nothing about this project interested me, not only for the reasons stated above, but also because I kinda figured the movie would suck. That’s not a swipe at Smith, either. You could resurrect Alfred Hitchcock in his prime and announce his next project would mix political satire and horror and I would still roll my eyes. Those are two of the most difficult genres to crack when they’re not mashed together and my guess is that there’s really no way to intentionally produce a successful hybrid. That kind of lightning would have to strike accidentally and purely by chance at something like a Corman-esque exploitation flick. Whoops, this is genius!
So how bad was Smith’s marketing plan? So bad he melted down at Sundance in front of potential buyers. Obviously fearing he wouldn’t land a buyer, Smith decided to get out in front of the coming bad news with a “I meant to do that” narrative claiming he never intended to sell the film in the first place.
And how bad is the actual film? Well, let me put it this way: It bashes right-wing Christians and critics are still giving it scathing reviews:
It’s not the worst movie ever, it’s not even the worst movie Kevin Smith has made, it’s just a disappointment. Alright I’m done, I don’t want to talk about this anymore, this is depressing me.
Absent any visceral mojo, pic tries to fall back on Smith’s gifts as a wordsmith, which are seldom in evidence here: More than once, characters launch into momentum-killing monologues in which jokes as well as plot developments are endlessly belabored. The larger problem is that the script is unable to channel its sociopolitical rage in a way that would draw blood as satire. Once auds get past the ostensibly outrageous concept of a trigger-happy Christian cult (the fact that it’s on the lunatic fringe actually makes for a less scalding critique), “Red State” has few surprises up its sleeves, apart from the occasional shock of another character being brutally dispatched.
I truly believe “Red State” the movie is a failure on almost every level.
Reportedly, “Red State” cost $4 million to make and Smith’s self-marketing plan is to take it around the country himself in the hopes his rabid fan base can help recoup the costs. He might even succeed. But when a guy like Smith becomes the punchline, that’s something he’ll only be able to erase with a career triumph. His friend Ben Affleck did it with the one/two punch of “Gone Baby Gone” and “The Town.”
But Kevin Smith is no Ben Affleck.