Did you know, the working title of the movie was “The Passion of the Clerks”? I think, in light of Mel Gibson’s recent attack on the Jews of the world, it might have been a good ideas to stay away from that title. It was funny, but it would have given the film a different, unnecessary tone. Clerks 2 is Kevin Smith grown up. Perhaps not quite mature, but definitely showing (and acknowledging) signs of evolution. Both as a person on screen, and as a filmmaker. That’s all I should say in the review. If you like juvenile humour that’s improving, and aging like good wine, then you’ll love the film. If you come to the theater, expecting existential meditation like Dogma, or hi-jinks like Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back – you will be disappointed. I liked it, but then again, I also liked Jersey Girl – and we all remember how quickly that disappeared from theaters.
Kevin Smith should get a special award for what he’s been doing over the past 5-7 years. Trying not to sell out, regardless of whether it made him rich and famous. He’s been involved in early pre-production of massive superhero franchises (X-men, Spidey, Superman, or two of those, perhaps), and walked away from them, over creative differences. Studios like his writing, and keep inviting him back, but at some point, when they try to wrangle some ridiculous rewrite (that may contradict the original, piss off the fans, allow the studio to hire a younger, dumber blonde), Kevin would just walk away. That’s impressive. Even with Clerks 2, after the bad reception of Jersey Girl, you would think that he won’t make another film again. And yet, as I walked form the theater, I kept thinking “all the jokes aside, this film most resembles Jersey Girl, and that’s a good thing”. Kevin refuses to let go of his “toiler humour told by intelligent people” formula, despite what the box office thinks of such a formula. Kudos.
Clerks 2 picks up a few years after the original. Dante and Randal have lost their stores to a freak accident, and are now working at Mooby’s (fictional blend of popular fast food chains). Once again, Dante is at a crossroads in his personal life (he’s about to get married, but is having cold feet); and Randal is only too happy to prank everyone in his way. Smarmy remarks, bodily fluids, ripping into customers – he’s a self-destructive hooligan, and he’s a lot of fun. Jay and Silent Bob are back on the side of the building, dealing pot, dancing to those forgotten 80s tracks, stuck in that time forever, and enjoying themselves. Occasionally, this nirvana is rudely interrupted by a rich and famous old buddy of Dante’s (or Randal’s) – like a cameo from Jason Lee or Ben Affleck. Oh, and there’s also their boss – Becky (Rosario Dawson), and a new assistant Elias (Trevor Fehrman). Becky must exercise common sense and authority, but that’s difficult to do when you are involved with someone like Dante – self-doubting, aspiring but ultimately underachieving underdog.As for Elias – he sees Randal as a role model, except theirs is an unbelievably one-sided relationship – Randal almost literally wipes the floors with the kid, and the kid comes back for more jokes – as long as some of the jokes are aimed at others.
Describing other plot twits, or sequences would be a disservice for the movie – you just have to see it for yourself. The part that’s truly and uniquely Kevin Smith is that behind all the dirty jokes, and nudges is friendship and trust. The guys may not understand each other often, but they honestly try to agree or see the point in this or that situation. Even the universally appealing donkey sex show (the guys refer to it as “inter-species erotica”) gets support from Randal, and strong opposition from Dante – you really must see it to believe it. In the end, at least it gets well-deserved recognition. Smith loves his characters, despite their flaws, and that all stems from honest, smart writing. There are so many buddy movies out there – friendships formed, rebuilt, or just maintained. Many stories, played by many actors. You can tell a Smith relationship by a few phrases. It hits home. You forget all the bad language, and cheesy soundtrack (which, by the way is perfect for anyone who was born in the 70s or late 60s). You just sit back and admire how these people stuck together for so long.
Smith is entering his nostalgia years. Sounds strange, but that’s what I can take from the movie. It’s still the same outrageous behavior, sharp social criticism (on consumerism, fashion, movie industry, stock market, etc), but it’s coming from an older man. It may have a bit more weight to it. It may be taken a little more seriously. Smith’s moral is simple – who cares what you do for a living as long as you enjoy it? Doesn’t matter if you’re a peon or an executive, it’s your satisfaction with the day passed that counts. It’s the people who share your after hours, or share your ride home. I can agree with that. I can’t really put on an inter-species erotica show at my office, but that’s probably a good thing. I’m curious what the gang will be up to next – their Randal/Dante universe is almost depleted, I would love to see SOME of their further adventures, but after this movie, I’m more interested in Smith’s adventures as a filmmaker.
Don’t listen to disappointed fanboys – Clerks 2 is anything but recycled jokes and sequences. It’s a new journey, with old, familiar faces. Truly a sequel, the way it should be.