|Clerks II (2006)
Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Trevor Fuhrman, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Kevin Weisman, Wanda Sykes
Director: Kevin Smith
A cloud of unanimous apprehension hung in the air during the opening minutes of writer/director Kevin Smith’s latest View Askew comedy, “Clerks II,” partly because longtime Smith fans were afraid the film would suck, but mostly because the legacy of the original film held a much bigger stake in its success. It didn’t take long, however, to win over the audience’s affection, and it took even less time to realize that, while the sequel to the 1994 critical darling shares many of the same comedic nuances, it’s a completely different monster. The new flick, while still embracing its share of salacious humor, marks Smith’s maturation as a filmmaker, and in doing so, also forces the film’s two main characters into re-evaluating their own lives as they approach adulthood.
As a short prologue of the events to come, the film opens with Quick Stop lifer Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) arriving at work to discover the convenience store ablaze; no thanks to fellow co-worker Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), whose complete disregard for turning off the coffee pot the night before has turned their only source of income into a pile of smoking ashes. Fast-forward one year later and the two childhood pals are now working at an imaginary fast food joint, Mooby’s, along with a Bible-thumping, “Transformers”-obsessed nerd (Trevor Fuhrman) and the geeky (but incredibly sexy) interim manager, Becky (Rosario Dawson). It also marks Dante’s last day in Jersey – as he’s all set to move down to Florida and tie the knot with his controlling fiancée, Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith) – but Randal isn’t ready to say goodbye to his best friend.
Smith may have promised fans that “Clerks II” would never happen (as documented on “An Evening with Kevin Smith”), but he also promised friend and co-star Jason Mewes that he would make the film if his longtime pal went sober. So, Mewes cleaned up, Smith began writing, and a couple years later, Jay and Silent Bob returned to the big screen. In an effort to honor Mewes’ sobriety, the drug-dealing duo have also kicked the habit, instead opting for a newfound relationship with Jesus Christ. Thankfully, the joke isn’t dragged on any longer than necessary, and they’re no sooner monkeying around in the parking lot and dancing to Q Lazzarus’ “Goodbye Horses” in between pot deals.
In fact, the entire script is peppered with hilarious moments, including discussions about sex with underage girls, whether or not it’s considered appropriate to go “ass to mouth,” the legitimacy of racial slurs like “porch monkey,” and the ultimate fanboy debate: “Star Wars” or “Lord of the Rings”; handled perfectly by “Alias” vet Kevin Weisman, who verbally attacks Randal’s love for the original trilogy with the following comment: “Maybe we should start calling your friend Padme, because he loves Mannequin Skywalker so much. ‘DANGER! DANGER! My name is Anakin. My shitty acting is ruining saga…’” Then again, we all know which of the two trilogies is the superior one, and Randal promptly fires back with the effortless Frodo-Sam homoerotic derision.
There’s not much more to the film other than the four burger-flippers making good use of their free time – except, perhaps, two completely unexpected musical sequences including an elaborate dance number to the Jackson 5’s “ABC” and a slightly homoerotic go-kart sequence (in a very “Top Gun” volleyball montage kind of way) to Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” – but that’s what made the original such a cult success in the first place. The sheer airiness of Randal’s ignorant diatribes are more than enough to keep you laughing through the entire 97 minutes, and though the ending is a bit bumpy, Smith cleans up the mess just in time for the credits to roll. He also gets a lot of help from returning cast members Anderson and O’Halloran, who seamlessly dive back into their roles like they never left (though their physical appearances can’t hide the decade-long break), while newcomers like Fehrman and the unbelievably gorgeous Dawson steal the show right from under them.
Of course, it wouldn’t be the usual Kevin Smith fare if there weren’t a healthy collection of cameo roles, and though the body count is unusually low this time around, View Askew regulars Ben Affleck and Jason Lee take the time to stop by – though Affleck only appears for five seconds, tops. That hardly calls for protest, however, since it only makes the movie that much more enjoyable. Perhaps Smith really has grown up, or at least he’s no longer depending on his golden boy to fill the seats. Honestly, it’s just nice to see the director back to his old self again, and though the original will probably forever be considered Smith’s biggest accomplishment, “Clerks II” isn’t very far behind.
It's nice to see a two-disc DVD set released that isn't boasting any sort of special, ultimate or limited edition status, especially when that very film deserves such a title. Featuring three audio commentaries (with writer/director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Moser and various cast/ctrew), as well as a handful of deleted scenes and bloopers, "Clerks 2" is a must-buy for any fan of the director's Jersey collection. The two-disc release also includes a 90-minute making-of documentary, an interspecies erotica featurette and ten video production diaries.