In 1994, writer/director Kevin Smith broke onto the cinema scene with a caustic yet brilliantly original take on the trials and tribulations of what it meant to be twenty-something and working-class. Five movies later, Smith returns to his roots with Clerks II. Many sequels are borne of monetary obligation and suffer drastically from idealistic bean-counters whose main concern is not whether the film they’re making is substansive, it’s whether or not enough tie-in plastic cups are sold at Burger King. And yet as Smith’s sequel will no doubt make considerable coin, he’s embued his film with pathos and warmth. It’s there, in between the raunch and vulgarity.
Twelve years after we left counter jockeys Dante Hicks and Randal Graves, we return to New Jersey. Since their previous place of employment went up in flames, the two are now slaves to the fast food grind at the Disney-themed fast food restaurant Mooby’s. Becky (played wonderfully by Rosario Dawson), their manager, may have a thing for Dante yet he’s planning to head to Florida with his fiance, Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach, Kevin Smith’s wife). Randal’s still his smart-ass, sarcastic-to-the-nth-degree self, and Jay and Silent Bob are still dealing, yet they’re no longer using thanks to a stint in rehab. Trevor Fuhrman is new to the equation, playing a young Fundamentalist Christian Mooby’s employee who Randal loves to torment.
Kevin Smith has become a media entity in and of himself. Yet his presence in the public eye tends to dilute the most overlooked fact about him: the man can *WRITE*. With Clerks II, he deftly blends the characters we know with a statement that rings very true. The main characters in the film are in their mid-thirties. Smith asks the question: do we grab the brass ring and step forward or do we do something that, while not particularly glamorous career-wise, makes us truly happy? In its very essence Clerks II holds the mirror up to its audience and allows them to reflect on what is to come, which is in their hands.
Some may denounce or dismiss the bawdy nature of some of the elements in the film but that’s trademark Smith. This film is not Wedding Crashers. It’s not Date Movie. It’s wholly original and takes steps that other scripted-by-committee comedies wouldn’t, mainly advancing the fate of the characters into different areas.
Clerks II is also a treat for those of us who’ve followed Smith’s View Askewniverse, with cameos from many alums from his other films.
All in all, Clerks II is the best film of the summer. While achingly funny, it also manages to have a very big heart that beats with a rhythm and style that brings real emotion and tenderness to the fore, with caustic yet believable dialogue that only Kevin Smith-scripted characters can deliver. No matter what, it’s a film that could have been a disaster. Those out there worried that this was a lame cash-in, worry not. Instead Clerks II is a delight and one that delivers on the hype and then some.