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Clerks II
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by Peter Sobczynski

"At Least You Know You Won't Be Sitting Next to Joel Siegel If You Go"
4 stars

On the surface, the mere existence of “Clerks 2" seems like an admission of defeat on the part of writer-director Kevin Smith. After all, he was the one who announced after the release of “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” that he was going to abandon his so-called “Askewniverse”–the densely populated and increasingly intertwined world in which he set the sometimes philosophical (“Chasing Amy” and “Dogma”), sometimes scatological (“Clerks” and “Mallrats”) and always pop-culture savvy films that made him a cult favorite to some and a target of ire to others–in order to devote his time to more mature works, the type of films that would allow him to stretch beyond “Star Wars” references, Stinky Palms or Jay & Silent Bob, the stoner duo that served much the same purpose in Smith’s world as C-3PO and R2-D2 did for George Lucas. While I personally liked his first such effort, “Jersey Girl,” it was largely panned by critics for its naked sentimentality, roasted by fans angry at him for not giving them more of the same and ignored by a public that had largely grown sick of the public hi-jinks of co-stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (so much so, in fact, that Miramax attempted to combat it by making the surprise first-reel death of Lopez’s character into a key publicity point).

Coming on the heels of the failure of that movie, it is easy to read “Clerks II” as a desperate bid to regain the audience that had abandoned him. And yet, the film that Smith has given us is not simply a rehash of familiar characters and jokes–it channels the dreams, anxieties and frustrations of an overeducated and underemployed generation trying to cope in various ways with an arrested adolescence has somehow extended into their 30's with the same detail and nuance that he did when he looked at them a decade ago in the original film while still finding a way to include dissections of arcane racial slurs, pop-culture minutiae and the kind of profane acts that cannot even be hinted at within the confines of a family newspaper. The result is a work that may be the least essential entry in Smith’s filmography but a smarter and more thoughtful work than you might expect from a film that devotes a good portion of its third act to a donkey act slightly more profane than the kind that Francis used to perform.

Although “Clerks II” starts in almost the exact same manner–with black-and-white footage of longtime New Jersey Quik Stop register jockeys Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall (Jeff Anderson) arriving for another day of facing the world and providing it with coffee and a paper–Smith pulls the rug out from under us by having the place immediately go up in flames. Instead of taking this opportunity to let their lives finally bloom (literally, as the film shifts to color at this point), we cut to a year later and we find them in another soul-killing McJob manning the counter of a Mooby’s fast-food restaurant. While Randall is perfectly content to continue to while away his hours endlessly railing on the weirdo customers while debating the merits of Lucas vs. Tolkein with geeky co-worker Elias (Trevor Fehrman), Dante has finally chosen to launch himself into adulthood at last by getting engaged to Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach, a.k.a. Mrs. Kevin Smith) and leaving McJobs, Jersey and Randall behind to move with her to Florida and manage one of her father’s car washes. Set on Dante’s last day before leaving for good, the film finds him trying to deal with both oncoming adulthood and his feelings towards sexy co-worker Becky (Rosario Dawson), Randall dealing with both the approaching loss of his best friend and the details of the surprise going-away party he is throwing that night (two words–“Interspecies Erotica”) and Jay & Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith) just dealing in the parking lot outside.

Like the original “Clerks,” many of the scenes in “Clerks II” are little more than excuses for Smith to indulge in his passion for hyper-verbal dialogue scenes choked with elaborate profanity and even more elaborate analyses of virtually any subject that comes up–favorite topics include race (Randall innocently uses the phrase “porch monkey,” discover that it is a derogatory racial term and launches a campaign to “reclaim” it for non-racists), sex (too many examples to get into here) and all aspects of contemporary American culture (Randall hilariously and accurately derides the “Lord of the Rings” films as little more than umpteen hours of people walking: “Even the f------ trees walked!”) This stuff is all very funny and it will come as a relief for some to discover that Smith hasn’t lost his ability for writing this kind of smart, spiky dialogue.

However, there is a more serious undercurrent throughout that makes the film more than just 90 minutes of zingy comic riffs, especially in how the two heroes are separately dealing with both the impending end of their longtime relationship and their separate futures. Dante knows he is doing what he is supposed to do but isn’t quite sure if it is what he needs to do, especially when Becky throws him an unexpected curve ball, and deals with it in his usual passive-aggressive manner. Randall, on the other hand, is upset at both the loss of his friend–and the implicit suggestion that he needs to start his life all over again–and his own frustrations at the lifestyle that he espouses (especially after the visit by and deals with both in his usual aggressive-aggressive manner. It is this ability to tackle real issues in a sly and off-hand matter–not just the sex jokes and gross-out gags (including the inevitable polluting of the food aimed at a particularly hateful customer)–that has made Smith’s work so fascinating to watch and it is why his work will still resonate with viewers when such blatant copycats as “Waiting” mercifully fade from memory.

While it might be stretching matters to call O’Halloran and Anderson great actors, they are once again both spot-on as Dante and Randall and are perfectly at home with the more serious elements that occasionally crop up–a climactic scene between the two in a jail cell (don’t ask) finds them shifting from weirdo comedy to genuine drama without missing a beat. As the figurative new girl in the Askewniverse, Rosario Dawson is funny, sexy and full of radiant good cheer throughout as another one of Smith’s dream girls–her character may be stuck in a dead-end job but she is too strong to let it destroy her from within in the way that it has with her co-workers. And while I am happy that Smith ignored the temptation to give a large portion of the proceedings over to the popular characters of Jay & Silent Bob (perhaps dedicating an entire feature to them taught him that they are best deployed in small doses), I will note that he and Mewes get some big laughs from their appearances and if he ever decides to center another movie on them, I hope he seriously considers Mewes’s rant about space travel as a possible scenario. Smith has also toned down on the array of celebrity cameos that have been overwhelming his recent films as well–the only ones of note here are a funny turn from Jason Lee as a former classmate of Dante and Randall’s who has made very good since high school, a bit from Wanda Sykes as an aggrieved customer and a blink-and-you-miss-it flash of Ben Affleck, whose appearance is so brief and inconsequential that I suspect that is part of the joke. The only bum performance comes from Schwalbach as the Jersey Girl Yoko Ono–to be fair, this is due as much to the fact that it is a weakly written part (she is such a annoying shrew that you can’t believe that she would ever give Dante the time of day or that he would give up everything for her, especially with the likes of Becky around) as it is the fact that she simply isn’t a very good actress.

“Clerks II” probably won’t bring new fans into the Kevin Smith camp and it may seem rather inconsequential, especially when compared to the more ambitious likes of “Chasing Amy” or “Dogma” or even “Jersey Girl.” That said, it is a smart and funny film that contains a number of big laughs (especially in the way that Randall announces that the donkey show has gone awry “due to nomenclature confusion) as well as some food for thought for audiences to mull over afterwards. It also contains, in its last shot, arguably the most quietly disturbing final image to appear in an otherwise amiable comedy since the haunting conclusion of “Dazed and Confused.” While watching “Clerks II,” you may recognize yourself or your friends in the characters on-screen and you may even find yourself examining your own life choices afterwards. However, after watching it, I can almost guarantee that you will think twice before getting into an argument with anyone working behind the counter of a fast-food joint before receiving your meal.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14852&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/21/06 00:20:20
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell decent the 1st one was alot better 3 stars
8/15/17 Jon Fans would appreciate it most. Dawson was great and originals were satisfyingly in characte 4 stars
12/20/14 Dane R. Youssef Somehow, MORE than just more of the same. The message may bring some to real tears. 5 stars
3/31/13 Marty L Gritty. fun, cynical humor. Not for the feint of heart. Must see in my opiinion 5 stars
12/12/12 Ben Saddens me to say it sucks, LOVE THE ORIGINAL. This is like Star Wars the prequels (bad) 1 stars
6/09/10 joey a worthless piece of manure 2 stars
3/06/10 Marc Kelly Better than the original. Very funny. 5 stars
9/20/09 Electric John My neighbors banged on our adjoining wall because my loud laughing was keeping them up. 5 stars
8/19/09 Jeff Wilder Gets the job done. Not as funny as the original. But still worth your time. 4 stars
4/02/09 Dane Youssef A worth sequwl. Smith comes full-circle. Hilarious, of course. And about something vital. 5 stars
8/11/08 Jon G romantic comedy = barf 2 stars
10/23/07 Charles Tatum I'll say it...better than the first and funny as hell "ooh, cake!" 5 stars
9/14/07 Equinox maybe if i had down syndrome 1 stars
7/16/07 Andy It was damn funny get ya head out of ya asses, and lighten up 5 stars
5/31/07 Matt F. I'm a Kevin S. fan, but the reviewer is right on alot of counts. 2 stars
5/20/07 Quadraphonic Some good cheap laughs but not the same kind of substance you had in the original. 2 stars
5/02/07 fattyjoe37 Great follow up to the classic original 5 stars
4/30/07 John Sucks and if you think otherwise I would not ever want to meet you. 1 stars
4/15/07 arl It's Citizen Kane, but I didn't expect it to be. Funny though! 4 stars
3/27/07 fools♫gold Like 40-Year-Old Virgin, it's yet another rather unfunny overrated bucket of puke. 1 stars
3/20/07 dude it was good 4 stars
2/25/07 Sharlatan david cornelius knows... 1 stars
2/20/07 Beau After i'd seen it i felt...dirty, like a part of my life had been stolen forever 1 stars
2/10/07 matti newcannon starts slowly, a2m was gross and unfunny, superb after that. this reviewer is a total dick 5 stars
1/23/07 bobski kevin smith is nothing compared to j r tolkien he hasnt a fukin clue!!starwars is shit btw 1 stars
1/21/07 joey Huge disappointment. Feels way too forced, not to mention sappy. Watch Dogma again instead. 2 stars
1/08/07 MickT Go rent Meatballs 4 instead, same calibur, much funnier! 1 stars
1/04/07 matt and King Diamond rules 4 stars
1/04/07 Indrid Cold As funny as the original, but nowhere near as fresh. 3 stars
1/02/07 Sam reviewer is a dumbfuck, he has no life so he thinks trashing films will make him seem big. 5 stars
12/31/06 matt Fehrman's performance felt forced, otherwise very funny and enjoyable 4 stars
12/30/06 alucard The clerks sequel that I've been waiting for. Absolutely hilarious! 5 stars
12/27/06 Deborah Ehh, it seems like instead of Smith getting better with aage he is just getting stale 1 stars
12/19/06 Buffy Worst Movie Ever! No stars for this crap. 1 stars
12/17/06 PK Total disaster, the worst acting I've seen all year. Age has not been kind to the cast. 1 stars
12/12/06 Bob If you're stoned or 10 years old, then u might enjoy this. Otherwise, you'll fall asleep 1 stars
12/12/06 Em This movie sucked ass. 1 stars
12/04/06 Shaggy Got me "Sex nuts and retard srong"! 5 stars
12/04/06 Emily absolutely hilarious movie...I laughed so hard I cried 5 stars
12/03/06 Brad wow, these comments vindicate postmodernism; i figured most everyone would find this funny 5 stars
11/30/06 Ryan_A Dancing Dawson good for a star all by herself. Perfectly acceptable film. 4 stars
11/30/06 toast only funny part i laughed at was when he was like " forgive me Jesus" while jerkn it lol 1 stars
10/15/06 William Goss Smith tries tenderness with a story of two men and their favorite pieces of ass. Amusing. 3 stars
10/06/06 EVEN THE TREES WALKED IN THOSE MOVIES!!? the ents in lotr rocked ,unlike george lucas shitty creations like R2D2,jarjaretc/koolfilm 4 stars
10/06/06 Fish possibly the greatest in smith's repetoir and amazingly funny 5 stars
10/02/06 Beau I am not going to downgrade myself to this standard of movie, this's for ppl with no brain 2 stars
10/02/06 The Master of The Internets A work of art. Fitting sequel to the original. HOWEVER I SUGGEST YOU WATCH IT WITH A FRIEND 4 stars
9/29/06 Joey CCCCRAAAP movie!! Watch Smith pimp his super/special/pumped up DVD. Kevin Smith is gay! 1 stars
9/29/06 yumyum complete garbage. 1 stars
9/04/06 The Maz This was lame. Kevin Smith, you suck. 2 stars
8/29/06 laura schofield AWESOME 5 stars
8/28/06 Kevin One word. Perfect. It was everything it needed to be 5 stars
8/24/06 Rapunzel Gladstone BARELY avg. J&SB were SO much better with Eliza Dushpu, Ali Farter, and Shannon Elizabeth! 3 stars
8/20/06 Sam well I thought i was fucking halrious 5 stars
8/11/06 nicolecrom2678 A must see 5 stars
8/10/06 Old Dirty Not as good as the original, but still great 5 stars
8/09/06 Matthew Brown I loved this movie - and unlike the review suggests I thought Clerks II was very funny 5 stars
8/06/06 Nixon This movie was quite hilarious, and I loved it. I've seen it multiple times, actually. 5 stars
8/06/06 Jim Vincent You obviously have no sense of humor and don't understand Smith's childish approach 5 stars
8/06/06 Sloth If you say it sucks then you suck 5 stars
8/06/06 Erik Van Sant Kevin Smith is a bad filmmaker. This is a sterling example. Fun to see the old gang, though 3 stars
8/01/06 jane it was sooooooo funny 5 stars
8/01/06 RugbyBuffy Laughed SO much! Like another Harold and Kumar...except more intelligent. 4 stars
8/01/06 Zoe offensive and not in a good or funny way. in a lame unnecessary way. 1 stars
8/01/06 Yolanda ass to mouth. this is the film equivalent. don't do it! so don't see it... 1 stars
8/01/06 Schooner Awesome! I loved almost every moment of it...a top-three Kevin Smith film 5 stars
7/31/06 raging cajun worse than Jersey Girl. 1 stars
7/31/06 kill me now so bad this movie makes you want to kill yourself 1 stars
7/31/06 Mike V Kevin Smith's shtick is painfully boring. 1 stars
7/31/06 CurtisEarl Exactly what I expect from Kevin Smith - Not gonna win an oscar but, I laughed my ass off. 5 stars
7/31/06 Strangef8 Kevin hits it on the head. I loved it! 5 stars
7/31/06 bob meh, not for me 1 stars
7/31/06 pimp smack this bitch, ho! dis movie SUCKS 1 stars
7/31/06 jeffrey stonard I want my money back 1 stars
7/31/06 eric campos I agree with Chris. 1 stars
7/31/06 kevin bad 1 stars
7/31/06 joefranks simply horrid 1 stars
7/30/06 adam james carolla This is the worst movie i have ever seen. if your a retard you will enjoy the film. 1 stars
7/29/06 Mase Easily the funniest movie i've seen all summer, Kevin Smith is clearly back in his element 5 stars
7/29/06 kaerf Jay's antics never get old. Religious commentary was nice even if morality wins in the end. 4 stars
7/28/06 JockoManjelly Probably his best. The tone of it was perfect. Good balance of silly & serious. 5 stars
7/27/06 Swedgin Agree with review, extremely unfunny and forced 2 stars
7/27/06 davebutt69 It was kevin smith's best movie to date. Jay and silent bob steal the show. Laughed out lou 5 stars
7/26/06 Big Dick DaMooch great fucking movie seen it 3 times 4 stars
7/26/06 Agent Sands Not that I see why everyone's treating it like it's Smith's masterpiece, but it was funny. 4 stars
7/24/06 mwr Only a complete moron could laugh at this borefest 1 stars
7/24/06 Tom Forsdike Excellent laughs, very entertaining. 5 stars
7/24/06 Bebop second only to dogma. 5 stars
7/24/06 ajay funny stuff, I busted up laughing several times throughout... 4 stars
7/23/06 KingNeutron Dogma was better, J&SB Strike Back was better. 3 stars
7/23/06 gromm Awesome comedy! On par with Dogma! 5 stars
7/23/06 malcolm just more of same; a2m description unnecessary OMB 3 stars
7/23/06 Ole Man Bourbon Sigh. Ass to mouth means you fuck an ass with a cock and the girls sucks it. Not asslicki 4 stars
7/22/06 wiltone little man 5 stars
7/22/06 8=======D IT OWNED! 5 stars
7/21/06 A F Hilarious!4.5.... The Lord of The Rings part...."Beautifully fuckin illustrated"-Sickboy TS 5 stars
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  21-Jul-2006 (R)
  DVD: 28-Nov-2006



Directed by
  Kevin Smith

Written by
  Kevin Smith

  Brian O'Halloran
  Jeff Anderson
  Rosario Dawson
  Trevor Fehrman
  Jason Mewes
  Kevin Smith

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