Every saga has a middle age and this is what happens when Jay and Silent Bob get old...
The follow-up to Kevin Smith's classic low-budget cult classic Clerks may not have been greeted with an overwhelming amount of positive outcries since half of the View Askew fans weren't sure how Smith could possibly make another Clerks movie successfully.
Were those fans proven wrong?
Well... yes and no.
Clerks II's goal wasn't to imitate the first film or try to live up to it, instead, it wanted to continue these characters' story and expand their universe a little. Case and point: the film opens with the iconic Quick Stop burning down before the film transitions from black-and-white to colour thereby telling us from the offset that this isn't the same movie and that Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randall's (Jeff Anderson) lives are about to change radically. It's a really good scene and one of the strongest images in any Kevin Smith movie to date. The action then moves to fast food restaurant Mooby's, where the clerk duo are now working or, rather, not working. Dante is engaged to be married but also the subject of an unspoken love triangle with Rosario Dawson's character, the manager of the restaurant. Elias (Trevor Fehrman) is a new recruit who works at Mooby's with the guys and who proves to be the perfect antithesis to Randall and, as for Jay and Silent Bob, they're also back but, somewhere along the way, maybe after Dogma, they became Bible bashers. An odd direction to take these dudes, frankly. Change, as we all know, can be good but it can be difficult also. In that sense, the film makes its point. Some of these changes to the Clerks universe are welcome, others not so much.
But is avoiding what people want completely no matter what always the way to go?
Really, most things added for comedic effect work here: the donkey show, Elias and his debates with Randall about the validity of the Lord Of The Rings movies, the many ass-to-mouth comments thrown around throughout, Randall's clumsy handling of Mooby's customers. But this isn't just a different story and a different movie, it's a different genre altogether. This is a romantic gross-out comedy that just happens to have some cool, familiar peripheral characters in it. Mostly, we're concerned with the Dante love triangle and since the character's meant to be Smith himself, that just comes off as self-involved. Not only that, but who ever cared about Dante's love life in the first movie? The love triangle there worked because it led to very funny moments: the infamous "37 dicks" scene, the also infamous necrophilic reveal. The humour was dark enough that it worked brilliantly as a counterweight to the rom-com stuff. With Clerks II, we've gotten rid of all the raw, gritty qualities of Clerks and what's left is, unfortunately, mostly surprisingly corny. Dawson is as lovely as ever but her character is just not interesting, as for Jennifer Schwalbach, she's once again distractingly not convincing in the role she's been given. Strange moments are added like Dante and Randall going go-karting in the middle of the movie in what is the first jump-the-shark scene of the film, the second of which comes when everyone takes part in the most irritating musical number you could possibly imagine.
It's Peter Parker dancing in Spider-Man 3 awkward, no joke.
Clerks II is well meaning: it wants to be more upbeat and happy-go-lucky, it wants to not copy the original film and bring us something fresh and new. That's admirable. It just strays too far from what made the first film good in the first place. Take away the comic-strip structure, the dark humour, Quick Stop, Berserker and all the edge and what you're left with is just not a Clerks movie. As a fast-food joint-set gross-out comedy, it's fine and has a handful of laughs: it's good to see Randall and Dante back on the big screen, Elias is a good, if cartoonish, addition to the gang and Jay and Silent Bob are still around so that's something at least. As a Clerks movie however, it's an oddity, a disappointingly candy-coated, far too heartfelt and standard sequel to a film that felt unique and sharp. It's a shame because this follow-up had a lot of potential and does have some really good jokes here and there. By the end of the film, though, you get the feeling that the upcoming Clerks III might just get it right so fingers crossed...
Overall, I could see why some might like Clerks II, I enjoyed part of it, but as a whole, it's certainly a huge step down from the first film. Sure it looks better, it's more expensive and has more Hollywood actors in it (Ben Affleck and Jason Lee show up for their obligatory cameo) but the writing lacks bite and the plot fails to impress.
This movie wasn't even supposed to be here today...