Friday, August 04, 2006

Clerks II (2006)

Friday, August 04, 2006
More than ten years later after we first met Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) in Clerks we find the dynamic duo still clerking.  Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back gave us a glimpse of Dante and Randal still at the Quick Stop and RF Video just getting by.  Clerks II opens in black and white with Dante arriving to open the Quick Stop.  As he unlocks the window he sees that there is a big fire raging inside.  He quickly rolls the metal barrier over the window in shock, but opens it up again and sees that the convenience store really is burning.  As he calls for the fire department the movie switches to color.  We move forward a couple of years on Dante's last day working at Mooby's, a restaurant that could be described as if the Disney Corporation got into fast food.  Fans of Dogma will know all about Mooby's.  Dante is getting married to Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach, aka Mrs Kevin Smith) and moving down to Florida with her.


What follows is a film that is all heart.  It is just a heard that is wrapped in a filthy, brown colored, somewhat smelly wrapper.  I mean this with complete affection.  Kevin Smith is known for making movies that are very "talky" and laced heavily with foul language and crude humor.  Clerks II has this in spades.  The MPAA has Clerks II "Rated R for pervasive sexual and crude content including aberrant sexuality, strong language and some drug material".  Exactly.  I think Clerks II goes farther and with more flair and creativity with the vulgarity than Smith has previously done in any of his movies.  With that in mind, this is a movie that has perhaps more heart than it knows what to do with.  The story Kevin Smith is telling here has to do with two guys now in their early 30's who have done little with their lives and are working the same dead end jobs as they were in their early 20's.  They don't have direction to their lives and they are somewhat disappointed with how their lives have gone.  In a more serious moment midway through the movie Randal mentions that he thinks that all of his best times are behind him and that he thinks that life may have passed him by.  But Randal is also losing his friend.  Dante is getting married, yes, but he is also moving from New Jersey to Florida and Randal will be without his best friend, perhaps his only real friend.  It's a movie about growing up, even if the growing up is a decade late.  It's a movie about figuring out what you really want in life and realizing that what you want may be what is in front of you and it's different than what you dream about.  But this very touching story is wrapped in a hard candy shell of hilarious vulgarity.  Exactly how Kevin Smith gets away with putting a "Live Donkey Show" into the movie is beyond me, but it works.  How he then comes up with the term "Interspecies Erotica" to describe said Donkey Show…now that's something else.  Naturally there geek discussions on Star Wars vs Lord of the Rings with some Transformers thrown in for good measure.

Like all Kevin Smith films, this is a talky movie.  Characters stand around talking, sit talking, walk and play talking, and it's all funny and sweet, and filthy and nasty.  The core of the movie is, of course, Dante and Randal, but Kevin Smith brings in his regulars for cameo roles: Ben Affleck (he has been in all but one of Smith's movies), Jason Lee, Joey Lauren Adams, and Ethan Suplee all make appearances.  Joining the cameo cast is Kevin Weisman (Marshall on Alias) and Wanda Sykes in memorable roles.  Kevin Smith has said that Rosario Dawson deserves and Oscar for her role as Becky, the manager at Mooby's, because she makes the viewer believe that she might actually sleep with someone like Brian O'Halloran.  Dawson is a great addition to the Smith cast and hopefully she will do more movies with him in the future.

Clerks II is not for everybody and one can make a case that Kevin Smith hasn't grown up, and that since I have a very strong fondness for his work, that I haven't either.  Perhaps that is true.  I like Kevin Smith.  Obviously, I have never met the man, but he comes across well in interviews and commentary tracks on DVDs and he can tell a great story (not just on film).  His friends are very loyal to him as he is to them, which tells me that there is something there.  I loved this movie.  I had a great time watching this in the theatre, I expect to have a great time watching it on DVD.  I find it funny and touching, and a little revolting.  While I won't list it as an Oscar contender and the year is early, I am completely confident that this will be one of my favorite movies of 2006. 


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