There weren’t very many movies this summer that I found myself excited about. There were a few action-oriented films that tickled my fancy (Silent Hill, X-Men 3, Snakes on a Plane) but no comedies that captured my interests. Except one. Clerks II is the film I’d been waiting for ever since it was announced at the end of the credits for Dogma. Of all the “View Askewniverse” entries, the original Clerks remains my favorite. When you spend over half a decade of your life working in a retail outlet, dealing with the horror that is the general public, movies like Clerks really speak to you. Especially if you spent those years working in video stores, like I did. So, did Clerks II invoke within my bosom that warm and fuzzy feeling like the original did?
Before I get too far ahead with annoying life stories and what-not, I’ll lay down the plot of the film for you. The Quick-Stop and RST Video outlets in New Jersey are gone, and Dante Hicks has finally decided its time to grow up and move on to a “real” life. He gets engaged to a pretty girl named Emma who is willing to take him down to Florida and give him a “real” job working at one of her parents’ carwashes. Although Emma and Dante don’t really get one-another, Dante just wants to seize any opportunity he can find to move on. To make ends meet until then, Dante and his buddy Randal Graves are flipping burgers at a Mooby’s fast food restaurant. Flipping the burgers with them are Becky, Dante’s boss and one-time lover, and Elias, a socially awkward teenage loser who is obsessed with Lord of the Rings and the Transformers. What follows is plenty of hilarious social commentary, pop culture minutia, antics from Jay & Silent Bob and the lead characters figuring out what they really want out of life.
Clerks II doesn’t require one to have seen every installment in the View Askew franchise. It helps to a degree, but this film has more in common with the first installment (to which it is a direct sequel) than the rest of the films. References to those films are few and far-between (Dogma and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back being the only major references) and don’t directly effect the plot. Clerks II is also a bit more grounded in “reality”, avoiding most of the silly/stupid slapstick humor of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and Mallrats. There is one wacky musical number in the middle of the film, but don’t worry, it’s awesome. Also, Clerks II is 99.9% Ben Affleck-free, with Mr. Affleck only receiving a single line of dialogue and about a total minute’s worth of screen time. Praise the Lord!
Like most Kevin Smith films, the humor has a broad range of appeal. You’ve got crude humor that’ll make many a person cringe, nonsensical humor for the Monty Python crowd, pop culture observations for those who are “with it”, topical humor for the politically incorrect audience and plenty of nerd humor for the internet geeks of the world. This is one of Smith’s strongest suits, as there’s something for everyone to laugh at in this movie. And I feel I need to add, “porch monkey” is ten times funnier when Kevin Michael Richardson screams it at the top of his lungs.
But there’s more going on in this film than just a bunch of stupid jokes and pop culture references. Whether it was intentional or not, Dante’s crisis in many ways mimics the career of Kevin Smith. Dante wants to move on from retail employment, get married and live a “real” life, the life that is expected from him by society. A person in their mid 30’s just isn’t supposed to be working at a mini-mart or a fast food joint. However, Dante finds his true calling by the film’s conclusion. Kevin Smith started out making comedies until eventually he decided to move on to “serious” film making because that’s what was expected of him. However, his attempts to do just that resulted in the disastrous debacle that was “Jersey Girl”. With Clerks II, Kevin Smith seems to have decided to screw what was “expected of him” and treat movie-goers to something he’s truly talented at, comedy with a splash of meaningful subtext.
The notorious pop culture dissection didn’t seem quite as prevalent this time around as it was in the original film. They rip apart the likes of Lord of the Rings and, especially, the Transformers. Although I am a big Transformers fan, I still have a sense of humor, and found most of the jokes at the expense of one of my favorite hobbies really funny. Jay & Silent Bob get about as much screentime as they did in the original movie and never actually steal the show. However, they do interact more with Dante and Randal, which I enjoyed, as I kind of like seeing them get along.
While the original Clerks is my favorite installment in the View Askew franchise, Clerks II comes in at a close second. I may not enjoy every film in the series, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. And I’m sure most anyone will, too. Clerks II gets a B+. Kevin Smith deserved every second of that 8 minute standing ovation.