Sometimes a movie is more than the sum of its parts. One such movie was 1994’s Clerks, directed by then unknown director Kevin Smith. Despite being filmed in black and white and having practically no budget, the profanity-laced film captured the heart and attention of Gen-X’ers everywhere. Finally, one of their own had taken their plights, language, and experiences and placed them on the big screen.
The further Smith drifted from his “View Askewniverse” (the fictional area where Jay, Silent Bob, and all the rest of his characters exist), the less successful he’s been. Smith has promised to put the characters to rest on multiple occasions, a threat that usually occurs shortly before the announcement of a new View Askewniverse film — the latest of which is 2006’s Clerks II.
Clerks II finds Dante and Randall (Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson) ten years older, still working at the same convenient store and movie rental outlet, still squeaking through life. When the strip mall burns to the ground, the duo find employment at Mooby’s, trading in their cash registers for burger spatulas. Ten years ago, Dante and Randall were going through what every person in their early twenties goes though. Ten years later in Clerks II, the pair of friends face a new enemy — time. Dante’s girlfriend Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach-Smith) has promised him a new life in Florida, a move that threatens to end the boys’ friendship.
Most of the original cast including O’Halloran, Anderson, Jay (Jason Mewes), Silent Bob (Smith) return. New characters include co-worker Elias (Trevor Fehrman) and Mooby’s manager Becky (Rosario Dawson), with cameos from Smith regulars Jason Lee and Ben Affleck, and commedians Wanda Sykes and Earthquake.
Smith’s writing is as dirty and funny as ever. In the Askewniverse, people talk by exchanging diatribes about particular subjects; at any given moment you could be forced to debate (at length, in detail, with notations) whether Star Wars is better than The Lord of the Rings, whether certain words are considered racist, or whether or not certain sexual practices are either acceptable or even sanitary. Conversations in the film come off like two people reading exchanged e-mails aloud, a feeling exacerbated by the majority of the cast’s acting abilities. Mixing professionals like Dawson in with Smith’s regular gang of hooligans just makes them look that much worse when compared to her.
And yet, I doubt that’s the reason Clerks II will escape Grammy nomination (the “donkey show” comes to mind). No one’s going to see this film for anyone’s acting ability; they’ll go for Smith’s writing, they’ll go to find out what ever happened to the clerks, and they’ll go because they can relate to the characters in the film.
That’s why I went at least, and that’s why I enjoyed it.