Clerks II review by The Grim Ringler

Ah, if only we had that clever subtitle – The Passion of the Clerks – still. Alas, it was not meant to be. Heck though, I am shocked to even be seeing a sequel to Clerks, but maybe that’s a statement about these days of film. Stories are never over, and I guess neither are films. We’re in an age where sequels are a natch, even to one-off films. Whether we want or needed it though, here we have it, the further adventures of Dante and Randle. They’re older, but whether or not they are wiser has yet to be seen.

After spending countless hours of countless years in the Quik Stop, the boys are out of work. What might seem like a dream come true, like being freed from Hell, but for Dante and Randle, the idea of not having the Quik Stop and its routine is something they have never considered. It’s a reality they never believed in. The day has come though, after the Stop was the unfortunate recipient of a coffeepot fire. Needing work and having no real skills, the boys turn to the next best solution to their mutual problem – Mooby’s, the local home for the national hamburger chain known for their golden calf logo and their delightful fast food goods. Their job isn’t the only thing that has changed for the guys though, as Dante is set to get married to a local socialite who has her and Dante’s entire future planned out for them. On the surface this is exactly what Dante wants – a beautiful wife, financial security, a white-collar job at his father-in-law’s business, and no more need to worry about his future. Randle sees the truth though – Dante is giving up. Afraid of always being the Quik Stop guy, Dante sees this as his chance to escape a life of cigarette sales, strange customers, and a feeling that he’s wasting his life. The problem is, even Dante begins to wonder if the married and kept life is what he wants, or if there is something more that he isn’t ready to admit he is looking for. Perhaps the return of Jay And Silent Bob can help get him out of his funk and maybe show him what his true-life path is – to be a dreamer who flips burgers, or to live the good life doing whatever his trophy wife has planned for them. Or maybe Jay and Bob will just sell drugs and cause trouble like usual.

Despite what I might say, I really did like this film. I don’t think we needed a sequel in any way, but I would wager Kevin Smith would say the same thing. Personally, I even loved the Clerks cartoon that had come out. It took characters we knew and had a lot of fun with them and that world. It is very interesting to see where these characters of Dante and Randle have come, but more importantly, interesting to see where director Smith has arrived as a storyteller. He really seems to want to be a modern-day John Hughes and he’s well on his way. Sure, he’s way more risqué, but he’s telling the same sort of universal stories about the same themes, and manages to mix in a lot of quirky characters as he does it. This isn’t a new assessment of Smith, but it looks like he’s finally achieving what he had hoped.

The film is damned funny. The acting, considering the main characters are not professional actors, are good, and nail their characters. Hell, it seems as if no time has passed between films. The laughs are plentiful and there are two sequences that are some of the funniest I have seen in a very good while. Smith really nails how people think and speak and his dialogue, as usual, is his strength. While it would have been fun to see more characters from the other films, it was nice that this film was about Dante and Randle and their friendship more than anything else, and even Jay and Bob are not terribly big characters, serving more as the foils and criers of the film. The addition of Rosario Dawson was fantastic, and she fits into the world and lives of Dante and Randle very well. She is a much-needed dose of femininity into the mix and is a character that can hold her own against such strong egos. One last great point is that the film is kept simple and doesn’t really try to out-do the first Clerks movie. What it does is try to compliment it and show you a sort of lost chapter to the lives of these characters. Smith is a very good storyteller and, with Tarantino, has one of the most interesting cinematic voices out there, and this is just further proof of that.

The thing is, I don’t necessarily buy into Kevin Smith’s attempt at being John Hughes. First, I have to admit that I am not one that worships at the altar of Hughes and think his ‘lesser’ films are far more interesting than the ones people rave about. Clerks 2 works best when it’s about the comedy and the friendship, but when it turns to the love affair/s of Dante it falters. It feels forced. I hated that things tied up so neatly at the end and that the story took the path that you expected it to. That friends is being too much like an eighties movies, where you can guess the outcome just because things HAVE to happen that way, and Smith is better than that and so are we. I can appreciate wanting to make a nod to the movies that inspired you as a young filmmaker, but damn, it just feels so stilted and doesn’t ring true to me when the relationship stuff comes up. Which is a shame because Chasing Amy is a beautiful relationship film. The rest of the movie worked for me, but not the romantic quest of Dante.

All told, it’s a very good film. Great? Not hardly, but nor was it a mistake. I loved re-visiting these characters and seeing where they are and what nasty things they’d get involved in. Fans of the first will dig the hell out of this one, for sure, but if you’re a newbie, there’s not a lot you’ll get out of this outing. As a standalone film, it’s ok, middle of the road, as a follow-up to a cult classic, it’s a worthy, if flawed film. Now, Mr. Smith let’s see something completely new. Surprise me.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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