Clerks II (2006)
Starring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Trevor Fehrman, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith
Director: Kevin Smith
For almost a decade now, I’ve been a big Kevin Smith fan. I have all his movies on DVD (yes, even Jersey Girl), I’ve read his comics, an autographed poster of Chasing Amy is plaque-mounted on my wall, and a Mooby doll sits on my TV. I even skipped last year’s Super Bowl to watch him do the Evening with Kevin Smith thing live. Generally, when people ask, I say that Chasing Amy is my favourite movie of all-time, although I’d probably have to watch it again to answer definitively (its been a couple years).
As a fan, it was fun to see Smith up to some of his old tricks, getting the old gang back together, hitting familiar notes and playing to his loyal audience. There’s some definite humour in the banter of Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall Graves (Jeff Anderson), and the antics of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith). The traditional Star Wars musings have been updated for the new millennium as Lord of the Rings jokes, with the observational humour of the convenience store clerk being morphed into fast food antics. The jokes are often laugh-out-loud funny, the characters are enjoyable, and Smith even manages to mix in a bit of a message.
The message comes from the fact that the young slackers from 1994’s Clerks are now 12 years older, and no farther along in life then they were when we first met them, just older and more bloated. They’re still working their McJobs while others have matured and moved on to things perhaps even more important than silly dick and fart jokes. The problem for me is that I’m also 12 years older, have matured, and moved on to things perhaps even more important than silly dick and fart jokes, and, sad to say, Kevin Smith has not. I’d hoped he would have matured as a filmmaker by now, and certainly seemed to be moving in that direction after Chasing Amy and Dogma. Sure, he went back to juvenile humour with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but that was supposed to be the fond farewell for the fans, a fun, pandering jaunt through the View Askewniverse before we moved on to bigger and better things.
Instead, Smith made Clerks II, a safer, more pandering, more frivolous revisit of the same formula than was Jay and Silent Bob. It was an enjoyable evening as a fan, but as a critic, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad while watching it. I’ve moved on and am ready for new things, while one of my favourite filmmakers is content doing more of the same. Worse, this time out, he lacks the edge that he originally had in the era he seems to be stuck in. Sure, the movie is even raunchier than past efforts, but the satire isn’t nearly as sharp and the observations aren’t nearly half as strong as in previous experts. Everything about this movie (including its major message) seems to suggest that Smith is happy to keep re-hashing the same ideas and same themes, and for most of his fan base, that will be more than enough. But I was hoping for something more, and thus, can’t help but feeling disappointed that Kevin Smith’s best appears to be behind him.