I assure you, no spoilers inside!
Kevin Smith was the king of independent film and pop culture when his film debut, Clerks, hit the screens. Armed with fast paced dialogue, skewed visions of the world of retail and utterly unknown, perfectly average actors, Smith showed us that just because they serve us, they don’t have to like us. Actually, it’s far more probable that they hate us.
Now, more than a decade later, Randall (Jeff Anderson) and Dante (Brian O’Hallaran) are still working minimum wage jobs striving to recapture the good times. This is the logical progression for these characters, who, by the end of the first movie had made no progress in changing their lives though they had decided that they had to do so.
The first was like a hungry, young Rocky Balboa, prepped to make a big splash in
Smith has grown up and has had more training in shot structure and pacing, features that needed work in his early films, so the movie looks great. The dialogue, Smith’s forte, fits well in the film but lacks cleverness that made him famous. Though he addressed the fact that sequels lack in all kinds of areas compared to the originals, it didn’t keep him from bringing back some of the classics such as “The Wrangle”, “I Eat Cock” and “Milkmaids”. The jokes and the situational comedy in the film are great so the crowd let out some huge laughs. The vulgar humour and the crass language remains true to the original and thus helps the weaker story keep it’s head above the water. As for the use of colour, picture the wizard of Oz and how quickly that film switched from black and white to colour. The same mechanism is used in this film and it flows rather well. The overall story takes the same form as the first Clerks movie, but it has a cleaner finish and a better balance of character development and resolution.
The acting was good, though it’s not complicated to act out a Smith script, you just need to be able to deliver the lines rapidly. O’Hallaran and Anderson have aged a lot since their last appearance together but it seems like they never stepped out of their clerk uniforms. Their witty repartee is not as tightly written but they deliver a human performance. Rosario Dawson (Becky) and Trevor Fehrman (Elias) provide a great cast of secondary characters. Smith (Silent Bob) and Jason Mewes (Jay) provide some slap stick comic relief but feel a little out of place. Jay and Silent Bob are funny when they take whatever idiotic idea they have seriously. They try too hard for laughs and it got annoying by the end of the film. Another newcomer to the cast is Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (Becky), Kevin Smith’s wife - who is not an actor, is there to bring some of that rawness to the picture like everyone did in Clerks. There were many, many cameos in this flick, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, to name a few of the bigger named stars. Of course, there were cameos of other characters from Smith’s previous movies: the Gum Salesman, the milkmaid, and the pot smoking kid Jay and Silent Bob strike back.
I give this movie a 7.5 out of ten or three and a half stars out of five because the characters continue to be likeable, though the venue and the humour is different, it’s still great. Where the movie came up soft in several areas: The clerking parts of were minimal, these were the hilarious parts, the story was more based around coming of age rather than menial labour. Becky’s character was poorly portrayed and flip-flopped from an alpha-personality type to an incompetent dolt. The movie was about a bunch of 30-somethings who hadn’t done much with their lives so some of the conversation wasn’t as aggressive or as sharp as a 20-something’s who were angry at everything.
I really liked this film and I think that if Smith stopped making films today, Clerks and Clerks II would make excellent bookends to his career.