Friday, July 28, 2006

Clerks II (2006)

Kevin Smith isn’t the only one who had a lot riding on “Clerks II.” For all of us thirty-somethings who fell in love with the black-and-white genius of “Clerks” back in 1994, the stakes were just as high. I won’t say that we anticipated this with the same level of breathlessness that met “Star Wars: Episode I,” but the concerns were the same. After all these years, would Smith give us something worthy of “Clerks,” or would “Clerks II” just sully our enjoyment of the original? It’s an extremely fair question given Smith’s inconsistent post-Clerks filmography, including his last film, 2004’s truly foul-smelling “Jersey Girl.” Indeed, while I have enjoyed several of Smith’s films, none of them has fully lived up to the promise of “Clerks,” in which Smith seemed poised to join that interesting fraternity of modern film-makers (including Richard Linklater and Whit Stillman) who understand that conversations are not something that fills the spaces between action in our lives, conversations usually are the action in our lives. Finally, twelve years later, “Clerks II” lives up to that promise.
This sequel finds our heroes in pretty much the same life situation they were in in “Clerks.” Now in their 30’s, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are still clerks, now in a fast-food restaurant. Randal is still porn-obsessed and caustic as hell. Dante is still the more sensitive of the pair, and once again inexplicably has two attractive women after him. Appropriately, the stakes are higher this time around for the 12-years-older Dante, who finds himself torn between moving to Florida and a better job with his fiancé or sticking around Jersey to paint the toenails of his hot boss Becky (Rosario Dawson).
Meanwhile, Jay and his hetero-life-mate Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) are still hanging around outside, making deals and busting moves. Kevin Smith standbys Ben Affleck and Jason Lee drop in for quick cameos, and comedienne Wanda Sykes delivers the goods in a hilarious scene about racial slurs. The film is full of bizarre characters and hilarious, foul-mouthed arguments about everything from “Lord of the Rings” to the appropriateness of mixing and matching body parts during sex. Unfortunately, Silent Bob’s “Berserker”-singing, Russian cousin is nowhere to be seen, but at least there is a live, donkey-sex show.
My pleasure in watching “Clerks II” was lessened not at all by Kevin Smith’s considerably higher budget on this film, roughly $5 million, compared to about $28K for “Clerks.” True, “Clerks II” lacks that black-and-white, film-school feel of the first film, and the jokes and characters aren’t quite as fresh this time around, but overall I feel like “Clerks II” is everything I could have asked for in a “Clerks” sequel. I recommend multiple viewings of both films.

5 stars.

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