Almost everyone is familiar with the indie sensation, Clerks that transformed Kevin Smith from a struggling new director into a cult hero amongst detached and world-weary young adults. If not theres always Chasing Amy, Mallrats, Dogma and Jersey Girl (which I believe even Smith wouldnt even want mentioning). No longer an unknown quantity, we pretty much know about his modus operandi in his movies. With a repeating menagerie of quirky slackers and his incredible knack for persuasive patois, its much like observing cinematic vaudevillians staging hijinks in everyday situations.
Indeed, Smith still preaches the same iconoclastic ideals in his entire oeuvre as he did in his debut. Now he returns to his most beloved stomping ground in the View Askewniverse with his tried and trusted caboodle of key characters in Dante (Brian O'Halloran), Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). He brings aboard veteran (in these circles at least) performer, Rosario Dawson as Becky, Dante and Randals boss at their new burger flipping jobs, and Smith also brings along a couple of new performers in Trevor Fehrman and Jennifer Schwalbach (Smiths wife), who are unfortunately the weakest links in this retrospective self-justification. Smiths stroll through his past brings back the laughs thats unseen in his later works, but leaves a lot of the heart behind in lieu of loftier ambitions.
What Clerks II has going for it is its vintage, ubiquitously ribald humour being delivered and scripted by its master vulgarians who dont seem to have missed a beat even a decade on. Its pretty much a jazzed up (budget wise), more sophisticated jaunt with its manchilds through the tedium of minimum wage jobs, all in the space of a day. More elaborate gags, unconstricted by singular locales and a much more rounded soundtrack are welcome additions. Clerks II has substantially more plot than its predecessor, making the humour and characters much more significant in their presence, not just participants in episodic events staged about specific punchlines. This obviously offers a chance to craft a suitable bookend to the lives of these characters as well as possible openings for further ventures in the future.
Randal takes the centre stage in this film, much like Dante did in Clerks. Hes possibly the best and most elevated character within the cartoon cutouts that the rest of his cadre appear to be. Hes the biggest manchild of them all but also the one who seems to be the most self-aware about his situation, keeping his insecurities hidden just long enough to belt out another diatribe to strangers about the changing world that is adamant on leaving him behind. Compare this to the uneven characterisation of Randals fellow burgershack colleague, Elias (Trevor Fehrman) whos a devout Christian, a Lord of the Rings and Transformers fanboy virgin that happens to believe the most inane lies told to him by his peers. Oh, and hes also a mamas boy.
Perhaps the most unforgivable misstep for Smith would be his indecisiveness in actually settling on a message. 10 years ago, leaving it open was a great setpiece for the rest of Dante and Randals stunted lives. But how was he to know that hell be revisiting the Quick-Stop once more and now, conclusion is needed especially in the midst of potentially life-changing revelations.
3 out of 5