Clerks II

Clerks II

***1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

As sequels go, Kevin Smith's Clerks II relates to his 1994 debut Clerks in much the same way as Richard Linklater's Before Sunset (2004) relates to Before Sunrise (1995), Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions (2003) relates to Decline of the American Empire (1986), and Ingmar Bergman's Saraband (2003) relates to Scenes From a Marriage (1973) - which is to say that it revisits characters familiar from the earlier film so as to examine the effects of aging and the ravages of time on them. This launches the clerks into new serio-comic territories, where the jaw-dropping humour of the original is tempered by some Gen X soul-searching - but it is strictly for the laughs that this film will be remembered.

Clerks II opens with what might be described as Dante's Inferno: the spectacle of the Quick Stop mini-mall (where the first film was set) being burnt to the ground. Now forced to work the counter at Mooby's cow-themed fast food restaurant, Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and his buddy Randal (Jeff Anderson) find that, if anything, they have stepped down a rung on the retail ladder. They are still permanently disgruntled, they are still shooting the breeze with anyone who will listen, and they are still going nowhere fast - except that now, 10 years on, they have former classmate turned internet millionaire Lance (Jason Lee) to remind them how far they have to go, and teenaged Lord of the Rings-obsessed colleague Elias (Trevor Fehrman) to remind them how little progress they have made.

Copy picture

Dante, at least, has found a "golden ticket" to more mature respectability. Tomorrow he is set to follow his pushy blonde fiancee Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach) to a new life, and new work, in Florida. Only it will not be so easy for Dante to leave behind what he truly loves: his best friend Randal, his beloved manager Becky (Rosario Dawson), the state of New Jersey, and the life of a clerk. And with the special seeing-off party that Randal has planned for him, Dante may well be swapping his impending marriage for a more concrete version of prison.

Fortunately, even if Dante is trying to settle into adulthood, Randal is still stuck in a permanent state of arrested development, and that duo of bad-boy regulars Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes/Kevin Smith), though introduced by a caption as "new and improved", really seem to be just the same old. I say 'fortunately', because Smith's attempt to get all introspective about growing up, no doubt inspired by his own thirtysomethinghood, yields a plot that is at core rather mawkish and cliched - but when it comes to writing hilariously juvenile lines, he still has the old magic. Whether it is on the acceptability of going "ass to mouth", the sexuality of hobbits, the theology of the Transformers, or just on "pussy trolls", "porch monkeys" and "interspecies erotica", Smith's clerks are always at their most entertaining when they are just hanging out and talking random crap, without so much as a care for who they might offend. It is only when these burger-flippers cease making mincemeat out of every sacred cow on the planet (race, religion, sex, disability, you name it) that they drift into less offensive, which is to say more dull, routines about friendship, roots and keeping it real.

Smith's Clerks II, like his previous Jersey Girl (2004), is just about saved from sentimentality of rom-com proportions by a welcome barrage of foul-mouthed clowning, nerdy pop culture dissections, and some of the most creatively un-PC language heard since, well, Clerks. No doubt the film requires its touchy-feely elements in order to have something like a plot - but it is only the more outrageous, incidental material that keeps things lively and fun. So Smith can go on reaching for more mature heights as much as he pleases, just so long as he keeps his dialogue in the gutter and his mouth to the ass. After all, it's what he does best.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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The clerks start life anew in another miserable retail job.
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Read more Clerks II reviews:

Dylan Matthew ****
Gator MacReady ***1/2
Chris ***1/2

Festivals:

EIFF 2006

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