Clerks 2 - 6th January 2011

While there has been, for want of a better word, slacker-based, men-centric comedy for years, one could make an argument, for example, that Chaplin's The Tramp was one, in the last two decades it has really come back into the mainstream in a big way for the first time since the 80s and that is almost entirely down to Kevin Smith.  Anyone who is aware of Kevin Smith, maybe has read his books, seen his multitude of interviews, listens to his Smodcasts or follows him on Twitter knows that he has a very dedicated, loyal, set fanbase that show up to his work (usually around $30 million mark) and beyond that, especially more recently, he has been known for the odd, unfortunate headline.
I mention this because, it's completely odd when you think that films like the American Pie series or any Judd Apatow or Todd Phillips film do ridiculously and in some cases, unfathomably well and yet, an argument could be made that, without Mr.Smith the dick and fart with a heart humour of recent, mainly male, buddy comedies would not be in vogue or even on the studios radar. It doesn't matter who he works with either because his films contain some incredibly famous, big earning stars and more recently the Zack & Miri/Seth Rogan experiment showed that even Apatow's crew could not shift more seats for a Kevin Smith film.
It's completely ok though because A) Box office should never matter if it's enough to get the artist their next project funded and B) he's in excellent company. The closest  example is Woody Allen, an incredibly gifted writer, films chock full with big name famous people (even now when the quality of his films has really veered off) and the same small but loyal audience show up for the annual Woody Allen movie movie every year but with that formula, Woody has managed to make one film a year since the late 60s!
I personally like Kevin Smith films and more or less feel, from everything I have read or heard, that I would like Kevin Smith, he seems like a down to earth, funny kind of guy. I even genuinely liked Jersey Girl, which I wish he would stop attacking or using as the butt of all his self-depreciating jokes, mainly for the father and son relationship, which I am always a sucker for in films.
While his films do, of course, differ in quality and I certainly don't like them all equally, I own them all and have watched all of them multiple times, apart from Cop Out which I really tried to like but just couldn't in any way at all. Also his little View Askew empire, with the merchandise, the Q&As and history of a close group of friends all working together on several flicks appeals to all sorts of parts of the film-maker geek in me.

Now, with that all said, on to Clerks 2 which is the sequel, 12 years later to the film that started it all and made his name. There has, of course, been much debate over which one is better and is Clerks 2 a worthy sequel to the first film, well, personally, I still prefer the original Clerks but Clerks 2 is a fine sequel and, as Kevin Smith himself once said about the John McClaine character in Die Hard, I could happily watch Jeff Anderson and Brian O'Halloran as Dante and Randall get into a new heap of trouble every year, as long as Kevin Smith kept writing and directing them.
Basically, and very quickly because I am sure everyone reading this has seen the film, the plot revolves around Dante and Randall being forced to leave Quick Stop (due to a fire) and transfer to the heady world of fast food service. Dante is engaged to be married and his wife to be has planned to drag his sorry, doughy arse down to Florida and away from Randall. At the same time, it is revealed that Dante has also had something of a fling with his attractive and sassy manager played by Rosario Dawson and so the stage is set again for more vulgar but hilarious hi-jinks, again the question of which woman Dante will end up with and the examination of the turbulent yet touching friendship at the heart of the Clerks' movies.
Now, I mentioned, briefly, earlier about the likes of Apatow and Todd Phillips films both of which, if you have read this blog, you know I like and have no problem with but their films tend to be formulaic in nature, where set pieces and improvisation take a front seat to plot or character. Most of them, then, do exactly what they say on the tin and usually have a very typical Hollywood wrap up. Where Clerks 2 is something all the more interesting and unique in that, underneath it's seemingly childish and rude veneer, it dares to have an actual plot riddled with conflict, characters that are equally crass and layered, thoughtful individuals and shows a very true male friendship which is, arguably, the true love story of the film. It is in this relationship that Clerks 2 finds all its best and most interesting moments, culminating in an excellently written scene where Randall says the things that anyone in a long term male friendship wants to say, deep down, but maybe never says.

What Clerks 2 lacks, which Clerks had in spades, is the funny and well drawn commentary on the customers, who, while they still serve as the foils to Randall's diatribes and flippant remarks, never really have a personality or a point of their own. Also, because of the introduction of Elias as Randall's new play thing and the fact that Dante spends a lot of the film with Rosario Dawson's character, the two wonderful leads are sadly divided in Clerks 2 way more than they are in Clerks where their banter with each other and the customers IS the film. Now, of course, no one wanted to see Smith just remake Clerks in a fast food setting and there is some of what I am talking about, especially in the classic porch monkey sequence but where the film is at its weakest is when these two aren't sharing the screen exclusively together.

The character of Elias, unlike Dante, is too easy a character, the stupid, naive, Lord of the Rings and Transformers loving christian, to be on the receiving end of Randall's comments and so rather than being the brash, bold, amusing character he should be, sometimes it can come off as needless bullying.

Everyone, it seems, loves Jay and Silent Bob as characters, so much so they were in everything up to Jersey Girl, had their own movie, form part of the View Askew logo and have been merchandised endlessly. I too like Jay and Silent Bob but my favourite Kevin Smith characters of all time? Dante and Randall, closely followed by Brodie. In Clerks 2, Jay and Silent Bob are sort of the weak links because, apart from the bit with Silent Bob in pig tails during the dance sequence, they don't really do or say anything particularly funny. The 'Goodbye Horses' sequence seems spectacularly random, curiously not funny and ultimately pointless for example.
This is because there's a dilemma in Clerks 2 which is that by the time the film came about Jay and Bob were big, established fan favourites and also this was to be their last film so they had to be in it and they had to be given something to do but unfortunately, apart from them loaning Dante and Randall the money to re-open the Quick Stop at the end, they don't have any other reason or point to be in this film and sort-of get in the way of the interesting story that's being told.

The last, what could be perceived as negative, comment is that in the first Clerks when some horrific thing happened, it was described in a terrifically amusing way, the coffin being knocked over at a funeral and Caitlin having sex with a dead guy in the bathroom but in Clerks 2, when it comes to the donkey show, we, more or less, see everything. Now I applaud Smith for going as far as he did, the dark little sick person inside me who laughs at such things enjoyed it immensely, it's also incredibly disturbing but outrageously funny, in a black humour type way, to watch Elias apologise to Jesus whilst excessively masturbating in public at the sight of a man having sex with a donkey but, just like in horror, there is a school of thought that says the audience can imagine something more horrific/comic than you can show them and maybe the idea of a man on donkey show was funny enough without showing it. It's just that, like I have already said, once it is underway it detracts from me watching Randall and Dante just be themselves. All that being said, however, it is a very well put together sequence, well edited and with great sound design so that when the shit starts to hit the fan, the music, the lighting, the smoke and the sound all really make you feel the chaos, confusion and also regret that Dante must be feeling.

Overall, in fact, the movie is wonderfully put together. Kevin Smith likes to routinely criticise his directing abilities and while, he is no visual wizard, he has no need to be. He does what he does and he does it well. Clerks 2 is shot well, edited well and pleasingly put together. The montage works, the dance sequence works, the donkey show is fantastically put together and the whole film has no downside, direction and cinematography wise. One small niggle was the use of Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head mainly because it had been used in both Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and more recently Spiderman 2, where I didn't like it and it didn't make sense either. There are so many songs in the world, it always feels odd to me when the same one is used time and time again.
There has been mention of a Clerks 3 sometime in the future, to see what Dante and Randall are up to in their 40s, although kevin Smith has also said recently that Hit Somebody, his hockey picture after Red State will be his last film. I personally would welcome a Clerks 3 and I would also, as many fans would, like to see him write more View Askiewniverse movies, not necessarily focussing on any of the characters before but set in that world with maybe walk ons from those folks, but sadly I doubt he ever will and if Clerks 2 happens to be the last one, at least it ended where it all began with Dante and Randall at the register and Jay and Silent Bob having their rightful place in the world, standing outside of Quick Stop.

7 out of 10 fly filled burgers and piss filled sodas.

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