Sequels usually come directly on the heels of a successful film but writer-director Kevin Smith is not known for following most Hollywood conventions. It took him a dozen years to get around to the sequel to his 1994 freshman film, Clerks. The original, made for around $27,000 charged on friend’s credit cards, was the beginning of Smith’s career and this now famous View Askewniverse. Smith has populated this weird world of his own creation for some time now. It looked like it was at the end when ‘God’ herself closed the book on it at the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back. Smith tried to go into for mainstream faire but his ‘Jersey Girl’ has less than well received. So, its back to the Askewniverse and the resurrection of some favorite characters.
The film starts in black and white as the audience sees slacker extraordinaire, Randall Graves (Jeff Anderson) leave the coffer warmer on. The result is a fire that destroys the Quick Stop where his best friend Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) has worked for almost a decade. As the story jumps ahead a year me also move into color. Randall and Dante, needing work but not quite ready for responsibility, have taken counter jobs at a new Moby’s fast food restaurant that has opened near by. Dante is at a cross road for his life. His over baring fiancée Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith) is demanding that they move to Florida where Dante can leave minimum wage behind, grow up and live in a house and manage a car wash. Emma’s father will provide both abode and career as a wedding present to the couple. Dante and Randall work for their shift boss Becky (Rosario Dawson) along with the nerdy Elias (Trevor Fehrman). Elias and Randall are usually found bickering. Randall remains a die hard fan of ‘Star Wars’ while Elias is more of a ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Transformers’ sort of geek. Outside the store Jay (Jason Mewes) and his heterosexual life partner, Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) are still selling marijuana. The only change here is they were recently busted and as part of the probation they have to submit to mandatory drug testing so the dealers are actually clean. Randall begins to doubt his long held philosophy of do as little as possible when an old high school nemesis comes into Moby’s. Lance Dowds (Jason Lee) was once the butt (literally) of tormenting by the boys back in high school. After selling a search engine to Amazon, Lance is now very rich. He takes a perverse pleasure in rubbing his success in Randall’s face. Dante is also full of doubts. Uncertain of how to dance at his impending wedding Becky takes him up on the roof to teach him. She tells him that she is pregnant and he is the father. Becky explains that it is not her intention to ruin his new life and that she will not keep the baby or tell Emma. As Dante’s best friend Randall decides to throw him a bachelor party in the restaurant. Things go very wrong when the donkey show turns out to be nothing like they expected. Becky walks in and is initially shaken. She utters a line that became the tag line for the flick, ‘at first I was shocked but I couldn’t look away’. As Dante and Beck share a little kiss Emma walks in and throws her ring in his face. There is a happy ending, of sorts but overall the film proves the adage ‘the more things change the more they remain the same’.
One theme that rises above the puerile jokes is that loyalty matters. This is shown not only in the friendship between Dante and Randall but in the fact that many people who appeared in Smith’s films at the start of their careers return for a little visit. People like Ben Affleck, whose salary per film has risen dramatically since he first entered Smith’s universe stops by for an old friend. The flick is rude, crude and completely socially unacceptable. The first Clerks was made on the proverbial shoe sting budget and that was a large part of its charm and success. Smith, unable to afford real actors used his friends, occasionally in multiple roles. He continues this tradition by casting his own wife as Emma and a little return visit by his mother as the now famous milk maid. You do not go to a Kevin Smith flick for enlightenment. You see his films for a cheap, juvenile laugh. Most sequels show the movement characters have made since the first film. Here, in typical Smith fashion we initial see the lack of any emotional or personal growth. Such changes in their lives do come but like most personal expansion the changes are somewhat painful. Like the first Clerks there is not so much a plot than a suggestion of one. Life for these slackers just happens to them. The drift along content in what life brings.
Most of Brian O'Halloran’s career has been in the Smith universe. This doesn’t mean he is limited in his range as an actor. Although most of his time acting he has been Dante just means he knows the character well. Seeing him here is like going back to a high school reunion and finding one old friend who has just not moved on with life. Jeff Anderson still embodies Randall. He is sarcastic and lazy. His idea of an intellectual conversation is a discussion of the merits of ‘Star Wars’ over the more recent ‘Lord of the Rings’. The only constant in his life has been his friendship with Dante and with the nuptials coming soon he is afraid that he will lose this and have to move on with wife.
The Weinstein Company brings this film to DVD with a smiling nod to the fans. The picture is perfect, actually too perfect. I miss the grainy black and white of the original. Now there are just too many stock Hollywood shots to work. The color is dead on, usually a good thing but here it takes the audience out of the moment somewhat. The Dolby 5.1 audio is well done with a nice ambience that surrounds you with the sets. Fans will enjoy the extras here. There is a running audio commentary by Kevin Smith in his typical self deprecating style. There are also some deleted scenes that thankfully never made it into the finished product. The 90 minute making of featurette is like revisiting old friends as it shows cast and crew coming together for one last hurrah. This flick is mostly for fans not only of the first Clerks but also of the other parts of the universe. For those unfamiliar with the other flicks many of the jokes will not make sense. For the fan this is hopefully a found fair well. Hopefully now Kevin Smith can move on even if his favorite characters are unable to do so.
For those out there with a high definition system there is now a way to enter the View Askew universe with the Blu-ray release of the film. Compared to the video quality in the DVD version it is like moving from video tape to DVD; spectacular. The amount of clarity and the degree of detail is astonishing. The color palette has never looked better. This release also has been given a new Dolby True HD lossless audio and it is just perfect. The channel separation is spot on. Each speaker is crisp and distinct creating a sound field that is as close to being in the film as possible. This is what this format is all about; perfection, and the way this film is shown now is it.
Posted 11/11/06 (DVD)
Posted 02/06/09 (Blu-ray)