Clerks II Reviews
It's not so much that this was a bad movie, but it diminishes the merits of the first. The fact that this was presented in color as opposed to B&W almost works as an allegory for it's "updated" qualities. Not only is this sequel more accessible in style/character but sacrifices the subtleties of the first that gave it its reverence.
I'm not sure what else Smith could have done to "sequelize" Clerks without presenting a completely new cast. (Which we would hate even more) In the end, considering it's constraints, Clerks 2 is a working, great movie and worthy of the franchise name.
Clerks II seems to be an attempt to bolt his immature profanity-heavy early work on his 'respectable' familial comdy Jersey Girl. The result is so uneven it's ridiculous. Not only this, but Smith seems keen on upending nearly every decent trait from the original: the social commentary barely exists, and when it does occur, it's lazy (attacking the fast-food industry is the definition of easy target); Randall is still acerbic, but now pretty annoying; Jay and Silent Bob are even more peripheral; the 'nasty sex scene' is far less funny when explicit instead of alluded to.
Some of it is worth salvaging, such as Randall's 'porch monkey' diatribe, and Rosario Dawson's 110% performance as Dante's boss-and-bit-on-the-side. These factors do at least keep the momentum going when the horse looks seriously flagging, such as in a daft musical number, highly Hollywood montage and modern indie-style 'character needs quiet escape' bit. Worth wtaching, but particularly uneven and barely related to the original in concept or execution.
So, where does that leave Clerks 2? Well, Clerks 2 might just be one of those uncommon sequels that may just surpass the original in terms of ideas and execution.
Whether or not you like Clerks or Clerks 2 better depends on where you stand with one of the major themes from each movie. The first movie had a sense of "life sucks, it's a series of downer moments like The Empire Strikes Back" (brought up in the film itself. Kevin Smith looooves referencing Star Wars. If you think Clerks 2 will be free of it, think again. More on that later).
It brought upon a sense of loathing about your standing in society. That the work you do isn't important, you're just a guy doing something a monkey could do with the proper training (speaking as someone in a job I wouldn't call high profile, I would be better off training a monkey or a ficus plant to do my job when I eventually move on to greener pastures. Most of the people I come across on both sides of the counter can't comprehend simple things even with big honkin' signs and COLOUR CODING! But I digress).
Although it might be considered a slight spoiler, this is how I see one of the major themes of Clerks 2: change is not always a good thing. Staying low-key does not mean you cannot adapt or suck at living, it may just mean you've found your niche. It's all about what you know and what makes you happy. Sounds corny and seedy but yes indeedy, give me the simple life.
Anyway, at this point, I should probably get into the plot: our lovable un-dynamic cynical duo return but after a fire destroys their previous locations of employment, they've had to take a job at the local fast food place, Mooby's. Dante (Brian O'Halloran, who I wish was a little more known. Time to go all Jackie Earle Haley/Jeffrey Dean Morgan with him) is wanting more out of life and has achieved that to a degree with a fiancee, Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Kevin's wife and perhaps one of the more supportive spouses in the entertainment industry) and a new start with a job being provided by her father. Before he can get there though, he has to go through one last day at Mooby's, which means one last day of keeping Randal (Jeff Anderson, and at this point I'd like to say Randal might be one of my absolute favourite fictional characters in the history of film. And as of posting, I've seen over 800 movies) in check. Randal's just as pissed and bitter as ever, all that's changed is he's got a new location to bitch in and a new whipping boy to make his bitch.
Speaking of, rounding out the cast as the new additions are Elias (Trevor Fehrman, who appears to have no new work lined up at the moment. Pity, I'd like to see his range), a nerdy, religious young man obsessed with the Transformers franchise; and Becky (Rosario Dawson. And I just love her in this role. Okay, she's one of my favourite actresses but of the films I've seen her in, this is by far her best work. And the down-to-earth look really works here), their manager and Dante's confidant. The addition of Becky is one of the highest points for the movie. She has as much common sense as Dante and shares a lot of his views but she can just as easily slide into the darker side of sexual nature, much like Randal. She's essentially the best of both worlds in one person and a strong female presence. She's neither promiscuous nor prudish.
And for fans of Jay and Silent Bob, fear not; Jason Mewes plays Jay as a dealer who found religion (bet ya didn't see that coming) and Kevin comes in front of the camera once again for Jay's smarter counterpart.
While a large part of the story and the characters resonate with me, there are a couple of negatives with the film. One is the music selection. Now, I don't object to the shout-out to The Silence Of The Lambs with Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus and Garvey being used but how many times do we need to hear B.J Thomas' Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head in films? Spider-Man 2 uses it, I still haven't determined how effective it was. Forrest Gump has it on the soundtrack, it was heard in The Simpsons once (Duffless was the episode. Or as most people know it, the one where Homer has no deer for a month. Wait, did I say beer or deer? Deer... or the joke about alcohol fueled cars) and quite frankly, let's put an end to it. The biggest offender is ABC by the Jacksons. It becomes a whole big musical number with Jay and Silent Bob getting in on the act and random bystanders breaking into dance. Granted, the whole thing is to set up a big twist and also serves for Becky to teach Dante how to dance for his wedding but come on. Was anything else even considered? What about The Contours Do You Love Me? Not only is the song about a man who is trying to win the love of his life back by showing her he can dance now, it has actual relevance to the story! Well, in a way. Again, I'll keep my mouth shut about the ending. Yeah, I know it's a comedy but considering how Clerks ended (and the original ending planned. Oh Lordy, I am so glad he didn't use that one. Executive meddling saves the day for once!) this may just hit you in the face like a pack of cigarettes (cancer merchant!)
Now, with all that in mind, some songs get the big thumbs up from me. 1979 from The Smashing Pumpkins (which curiously did not make the soundtrack for the film) and Everywhere by Alanis Morissette (which is also a nice reference to a previous film) to be precise. Still, maybe I just don't want to hear ABC after already having heard it in Billy Madison and not really being a fan of the song.
Anyway, the really big complaint: the donkey show itself. Yeah, for anyone who's seen the movie or knows Smith's career, this would be the point where you would say "Well, you clearly don't know the man by now" or "PRUDE!" and then throw something at me, possibly a holy bartender (anybody keeping up with the references out there?) but in my defense, besides the shit demon from Dogma, he's never been one for visual gross out humor. Usually, it's just the implication and it's left for our imagination (unless it's mine, where I just phase out until the next joke comes along. Now you know why I consider Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back the weak link) but here, we're treated to a donkey show (don't give me none of that "inter-species erotica" bull. The animal can't consent, therefore it's sick and evil. It's bestiality, pure and simple. There are some sick, sick bastards out there). So, the third act involves a donkey show. I saw this film at the cinema with a friend of mine, I pretty much just tuned it out until I saw Becky and kept phasing out non Becky/Dante parts. On DVD, I just skip through those moments.
But if the film makes up for it in anything, it's with the pop culture references. Transformers, The Godfather and one of my favourite moments involves a debate about the merits of the Star Wars and Lord Of The Rings franchises (and it has Marshall from Alias in it!) Randal's line is awesome "There's only one Return all right and it ain't Of The King, it's Of The Jedi" and I should note his views are pretty much Kevin's views on the franchise, especially the "three movies about walking" joke. The worst Star Wars gets is a reference to Hayden Christensen's acting but it's clearly Randal's side that it's slanted towards. For the record, I like both franchises but if I had been there, I'd have just said "The Back To The Future trilogy kicks both their asses."
To reiterate what I said before about themes, Clerks 2 is ultimately about finding what you want in life and sticking to it, even if it's not all big and flashy. Staying put, free of change, does not mean you're not getting older or you're refusing to get older. If anything, stability is a sign of maturity because it shows you're ready to commit. Whether it be in marriage, a job, a hobby, whatever. Sure, change is nice if you can plan ahead enough but don't just get up and change things just because society says you shouldn't become stagnant. Change when it becomes necessary, don't make it necessary to change.
But anyway, we all get different things from each film. Clerks 2 is extremely influential to me. Kevin, here's one fan hoping it's not too long before you journey back to the View Askewniverse.
A calamity at Dante and Randall's shops sends them looking for new horizons - but they ultimately settle at Mooby's, a fictional Disney-McDonald's-style fast-food empire.
Kevin Smith's follow up to his own superb low-budget comedy is a true delight and one of the most satisfying sequels of recent times. Brian O' Halloran and Jeff Anderson are back as Dante and Randal, only this time they've moved on from the convenience store scene and into the fast food world. However, their friendship is at risk, what with Dante all set to leave town and get married to a woman whom he's not even sure he really loves. In fact, maybe he's better off getting together with his boss and close friend Becky (Rosario Dawson)?Clerks II pulls off the feat of being hilariously rude and genuinely sweet in equal measures; Dawson in particular makes for a lovely, refreshing addition to the cast. Jason Mewes and Smith return as slackers Jay and Silent Bob; the former enjoys a hilarious moment parodying a certain scene from The Silence of the Lambs. The profane script is first-rate, often extremely filthy and very, very funny, while an agreeable element of sentiment makes this a particularly upbeat and spirited experience too.