I remember being completely surprised by Clerks. Kevin Smith took a camera, put it in one place, got a couple of deadbeats and had them talk all movie long. They spoke of everything: Star Wars, sex, other movies as compared to Star Wars, sex… Okay, mostly just those two things, and some idle philosophizing in between. There wasn’t much of a beginning, middle or an end. Slice of life, not plot. Episodes, not events. There was no character arc. The principals ended up where they began, except one of them was less one girlfriend.
But you know what, it was amazing. Listening to them talk was more fun than watching tough guys blow up buildings and kiss beautiful girls in the end. It’s amazing how engaging the simple things can be if you can, as a filmmaker, let go of the plot strings and just observe. Think about it: which part of Cast Away did you like the most? The plot-related sections in the beginning and the end, or the mostly silent bulk of the movie where you see just one man trying to live alone on an island? Clerks was one of the first really “talky” movies I watched, and my love for that kind of movie hasn’t dimmed ever since.
Clerks II is essentially the same movie remade 12 years later. The protagonists are older, but none the wiser. They work in Moobys now instead of QuikStop (they worked there until it burned down a year ago). Dante is still the confused dude who wants a better life for himself but only because he believes he should want it. He still has the same kind of girlfriend, although this time she’s his fiancee and they’re moving to Florida where he gets a new life as a dowry. Randall is still the same sarcastic sonovabitch who doesn’t give a fuck. Jay and Silent Bob are still around, peddling drugs outside their store.
The single most crucial event in the last 12 years has been the release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. This means that Randall can argue with people on whether or not Star Wars is a better trilogy than LOTR. He says at one point, “There is only one Return, and it’s of the Jedi, not the King.”
One major difference is the presence of Rosario Dawson who plays Becky, their boss. Kevin Smith seems to have mellowed in recent years, as evidenced in Jersey Girl. The Rosario Dawson character is proof of that – she is all sweetness and light, and her chemistry with Dante is perfect.
The other major difference is a feel-good ending that feels a bit tacked on and says things that were obvious even the first time around. However, I like the movie enough to forgive its Hallmark moment.
For longtime Kevin Smith fans, there’s little to fear from these changes. The dialogue is still as sharp as it was, and sex and movies are still the main item on the menu, with side orders of religion, racial slurs and political correctness. For those who remember Hooper’s argument with Banky on Archie comics in Chasing Amy, there’s an updated version: an argument on whether or not Sam and Frodo were gay.
On the whole this isn’t a surprising movie, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. I wouldn’t mind seeing these characters again, maybe in a movie called The Return of the Clerks. I’d like to see what Randall has to say about that.