Maybe. It certainly has a better shot at Oscar consideration than Smith's following flick 'Hit Somebody,' a movie about hockey starring Sean William Scott (there have been more Oscar-nominated movies about catfood-eating aliens in the slums of Johannesburg than Oscar-nominated movies about hockey). I love Kevin Smith, but I don't particularly care for his movies. The man is a candid and typically refreshing Hollywood presence, and his epic Q & A sessions are so hilarious that I once shelled out some major cash to see him do his thing at Carnegie Hall. But the films for which he's famous seem to be infused with the man's persona, though none of his sizable wit or storytelling panache. Sure 'Chasing Amy' has its well-scripted moments of Affleck-tian glory, 'Clerks' is deeply admirable, 'Mallrats' is overstuffed with nostalgic and ironic value, and 'Jersey Girl' - maligned as it was - is endlessly funnier and more sincere than your average romantic comedy and... okay, so I guess I kind of care for his movies.
But 'Red State' - the supposedly grim and unflinching horror movie that Smith is fast gearing up to direct from his own script - might be the film with which Smith makes believers out of even his most diffident fans.
'Red State's' logline reads, "A group of kids encounters a crazed preacher (based on Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church) who gives a whole new meaning to the term "extreme fundamentalism," and Smith has always maintained that the film is going to be a direct and potentially significant horror portrait that won't submit itself to poop jokes or any of the other auteurist staples of Smith's cinema. Smith has been kicking the script around for years, but the project has been kept close to the vest, and details about plot or tone remain largely unknown. What we can tell you is that Smith has always evidenced a real faith that 'Red State' could be the film that takes him to the next level, and recent news of the cast he's trying to assemble suggests that he's shooting for the moon (or at least, like, The International Space Station).
The fine folks over at Slashfilm brought the above tweet to our attention, which seems to be proof that Kevin Pollak - that master of impressions - is going to be working with Smith again (he popped up in 'Cop Out,' and we sure doubt he'd be tweeting about the 'Red State' offer if he intended to turn it down). 'Kill Bill's' Michael Parks has already signed on to play the Fred Phelps character, and while the supporting cast of Dermot Mulroney, Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano, and Stephen Root doesn't necessarily scream awards season glory, the same report reminds us that Oscar-nominated actress Amy Ryan ('Gone Baby Gone') has also been offered a role, and that woman brings a heap of integrity to anything she's in.
Either way, I sure hope that the stars align for Smith and that he's given everything he needs to absolutely knock this one out of the park. He makes modestly budgeted films that consistently return tidy profits ('Cop Out' grossed $44 million on the back of its $30 million budget, and that was extravagant for Smith) and so his career isn't in any danger, but I fear for his confidence. If he's sticking to his guns with 'Red State' and committing to a movie that should challenge his boundaries and limitations as a filmmaker, I can only hope that he knocks it out of the park, because if Smith becomes convinced he can't operate beyond the slacker milieu it might only be a matter of time before he sees himself as a glorified paid speaker. And if Smith does manage to get himself invited to the Oscars, I can't even imagine the stories he'd tell about it.
What say you? Do you think that Smith has an Oscar-caliber movie in him somewhere, or are you convinced that 'Red State' is going to be the ultimate proof that he needs to push his celebrity in new directions?