It’s been about 7 years since I last watched Clerks, Kevin Smith’s break-out film about two clerks and the goings-on in their lives. What made the original film (and the short-lived animated series) so engaging was the chatty banter between the two leads, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson). The topics ranged from pop culture to personal issues, and it was always brutal, witty, and rated-R. Now comes the sequel, Clerks II, which begins with Dante arriving to work at the Quick Stop to discover that it’s been burned down due to Randal leaving the coffee pot on – again. One year later, we find Dante and Randal working at Mooby’s (a fictional fast-food chain), and it’s Dante’s last day in New Jersey before he moves to Florida with his fiancee to start his new life.
The simplistic plot is enhanced by the characters. That’s what makes Clerks II work – we all know what’s going to happen, but it’s how we get there that makes it so much fun. Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes are back as Jay and Silent Bob, but their involvement isn’t as necessary as you would hope – they serve as (occasionally awkward) interstitial moments between scenes. The best parts of the film are the diatribes on pop culture, the highlight being a Lord of the Rings vs. Star Wars argument between Randal and a cameo appearance by Kevin Weisman.
The only real problem with Clerks II is that it felt half-done in some areas. When Kevin Smith made the first film, he wasn’t a Hollywood insider, and didn’t have anything to lose. So he was able to tear things and people apart through his characters, without fear of repercussions. Now, however, it felt like he was playing it safe – because he didn’t want to offend any of his Hollywood pals. It’s definitely a rated R film, and for good reason. But sometimes it felt just a little too safe, and that’s a shame.
Overall, Clerks II is an entertaining film that allows us to finish off the journey with many of these characters started over ten years ago. I can’t see them making a Clerks III, but you never know. If they do, I hope that Smith decides to go all out, and really push the envelope. (Then again, what other feature film has showcased a Tijuana “interspecies erotica” act? Hmm….)