REVIEW: Clerks II [2006]

“The Passion of the Clerks”

Who would have thought twelve years ago that the small indie film Clerks would be a success, a classic, and eventually spawn a sequel? I don’t think even writer/director Kevin Smith would have thought he’d be working in Hollywood let alone having all that occur. Alas, it did. While a movie that I love, I have to say there were many reservations going into the announcement of a follow-up to Smith’s premiere feature. It was a View Askew film, however, and it was going to be made, so I decided to go for the ride and have been following its’ progress with the Train Wreck video blog. The behind the scenes footage was hilarious of course, but still didn’t show me that Dante and Randall talking about mundane pop culture and sexual innuendoes could sustain another hour and a half. Thankfully Clerks II pulled it off, making any Askewniverse fan wonder, “you know, maybe he’ll do a third in another 12 years.” I’ll be there opening night for sure.

It has been over a decade since the Quick Stop employees last graced the big screen with their vulgarity, immaturity, and down-right laugh out loud comedy. Everything that made the first film remains in tact, from the dialogue driven story, sparse sets, potty-humor, Star Wars debates, and customer abuse. Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson are Dante and Randall, two old time buddies who have been close since school days. After working a decade at the convenience and video store respectfully, they move onto fast food fun at the neighborhood New Jersey Mooby’s. Of course a life altering change like this wasn’t premeditated, those two couldn’t make a game plan like that without the accidental coffeemaker fire which destroyed their former employ. At Mooby’s they once again have a small customer base and with their relaxed boss Becky, played superbly by Rosario Dawson, no real rules allowing them to basically do what they want. While still having the occasional bickering filled, profanity-laced rant with each other, the added characters add a great dynamic not letting it get monotonous watching the same two actors talk the whole time. Also, the utopia shattering event of Dante moving to Florida the next day to get married turns the heat up.

Dawson is great as the easy-going manager who is only there to help out her ill uncle, a two-week fill-in grown to two years and counting. She is totally having fun on screen and has the fortitude to hold her own with a character as brazen as Randall. Fast with the quips and spot-on with facial reactions, she fits right into Smith’s world. Trevor Fehrman is also top-notch as sheltered Jesus-freak Elias. The direction he has taken the character is hilarious and he plays it well. With nerdy awkwardness, Fehrman is the perfect punching bag for Randall to wail on verbally. Elias loves the comradery and takes the punishment without a second thought, along with a healthy dose of naiveté. After watching the video-blog the past few months and seeing Jeff Anderson and Trevor joking around and playing pranks, I was totally caught-off guard with the entrance of the Elias character. I thought he would be one of them, cynical and elitist. Instead Smith treats us with yet another disparate component to add to the pot of asinine yet enthralling conversation that drives the film.

Unlike the failed sequel Superman Returns, Smith successfully peppers his script with callbacks to the original. Whether it be catchphrases—that work due to being character specific—or eccentricities like Dante’s seeming fetish of painting women’s toenails, it all works within the constraints of the plot and doesn’t seem tired. As an audience, we are genuinely seeing these characters twelve years later; it’s as though they have been living during the layoff and we have just decided to check in on them again. They are still haunted by old high school classmates that have done something with their lives as well as a slew of quirky personas passing through. The only difference here being that they are now filled by star cameos rather than friends of the filmmaker. Through it all, though, the real heart and soul lie in the never stale rapport between our two main men.

Of course, a review of a Redbank tale couldn’t be complete without mention of our favorite stoners Jay and Silent Bob. The miming from Smith is as good as ever, but the star of the duo is by far Jason Mewes. After missing out on Jersey Girl a couple years back, Mewes has exited rehab clean and better than ever. Rather than trying to have him pick up the nuances of being high, Smith brilliantly makes the characters straight now too. We aren’t then treated with a shell of the comedy Mewes’ inebriation, unfortunately, had in the past, but instead a reborn slacker gone through an evolution; still comic gold and the best dancer around.

Any fan of the original Clerks needs to go out and see this film. It lives up to its predecessor like few do. Albeit definitely not for everyone, the prudish and sensitive should stay far away, it is the Smith we love. Hopefully he is back after the last two subpar films, in his oeuvre not in general, Jay and Bob and Jersey Girl. Clerks II is smart, crude, condescending comedy infused with heart and compassion as Smith has evolved himself, as a writer. The ending also bookends the film perfectly harkening back to the old days of one of grunge’s best Soul Asylum.

Clerks II 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

photography:
[1] Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran reprise their roles as Randal and Dante in Kevin Smith’s Clerk II. Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company/Darren Michaels, 2006.
[2] Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith reprise their roles as Jay and Silent Bob in Kevin Smith’s Clerk II. Photo courtesy of The Weinstein Company/Darren Michaels, 2006.

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