Revisiting Kevin Smith’s Clerks II
Our Kevin Smith retrospective returns to the scene of his original success, with Clerks II...
“All right, look, there’s only one ‘Return’, okay, and it ain’t ‘of the King’, it’s ‘of the Jedi’.” – Randal
After Jersey Girl failed to light up the box office, Kevin Smith found himself in an oddly familiar situation. As with the fallout from Mallrats, Smith decided to make his next movie on a much smaller budget and re-visit some friends we had first been introduced to over ten years earlier,
Back in 1994: Dante Hicks and Randal Graves are working at the Quick Stop Convenience and RST Video Stores respectively. Now in 2006: They are still there until one night a fire destroys the stores forcing them to find new minimum wage jobs at the burger chain Mooby’s, which is where we join the duo now.
Wanting to escape customer service hell, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) is planning to move to Florida with his fiancée Emma (Smith’s very own other half Jennifer Schwalbach Smith) whose father has set him up with a job and a house, and the day unfolding is his last at the restaurant.
Randal (Jeff Anderson) is still as customer-focused as always and finds pleasure is tormenting fellow employee and Lord Of The Rings fan Elias (Trevor Fehrman). Along for the ride are Jay and Silent Bob, who have also relocated to the front of the restaurant, still selling dope but having found God. Managing the motley crew is Becky (Rosario Dawson).
Scared of making a fool of himself at his upcoming wedding, Becky takes Dante up onto the roof of the restaurant to practice his dance moves. As the sparks fly, Dante confesses to Becky that he is in love with her, while she has a confession of her own. She is pregnant with his baby, the result of a one night stand on the prep table a few weeks earlier. The news sends Dante into a spin, but Becky promises not to tell anybody that he is the father.
With it being Dante’s last day at work, Randal decided to surprise him with a sex show and hires Kinky Kelly and the Sexy Stud to perform for them, unaware that what he has actually hired is a donkey show or as the Sexy Stud calls it, ‘interspecies erotica’. Undeterred by this fact, Randal, Jay, Silent Bob and Elias settle down to watch the performance along with Dante, who at first mistakes the fog machine for another store fire and calls the emergency services.
Thinking the store is burning down, Becky returns, forcing Dante to finally confront her about her feelings towards him. Emma arrives finding the two together and leaves Dante, throwing her engagement ring at Becky. Soon after, the firemen and police arrive and promptly arrest Dante, Randal, Jay, Silent Bob, Elias and the Sexy Stud.
While in the jail cell, Dante confronts Randal and blames him for ruining his life while Randal confesses he only wanted to keep him around and was afraid of losing his best friend. He proposes they both buy the now derelict Quick Stop and video store and with funding from Jay and Silent Bob (with the condition they can loiter outside without the cops being called on them), Dante agrees.
Flash forward a few months and Becky and Dante are engaged, Elias has now been hired to run the video store and back behind the counter of the Quick Stop, Dante finally has the life he has been hoping for all along.
In a lot of ways Smith took a big chance in re-visiting Clerks. It was, after all, the film that made him, has a strong cult following among his fans and was, in fact, really a perfectly rounded piece of cinema. Could there be anything else that could be added to it?
Well the answer is yes. Clerks II is a wonderful addition to Smith’s film legacy and is a great final piece (well, for now at least) to his View Askewniverse. Coming back to Dante and Randal ten years later is a stroke of genius and although everybody and everything has moved on, they are still stuck in their respective ruts, with Dante still wanting to escape his, and Randal being happy to insult and argue with his customers.
O’Halloran and Anderson pick up the characters of Dante and Randal so easily it is like they are putting back on their favourite old shirts, making the audience feel as if two old friends have just popped in to let you know what they have been up to recently. The flow of their dialogue is seamless and totally in line with the previous film, something which really could have unravelled the entire movie if it had not been done right.
As always, Jay and Silent Bob add their own personal brand of comic relief throughout the movie and special mention goes out to the two new main additions to this Askewniverse, Rosario Dawson’s Becky and Trevor Fehrman’s Elias, who both slot into this world so brilliantly it is hard to believe this is the first we have seen of them.
Fehrman really does steal the show as virgin fanboy Elias. His love of Transformers and Lord Of The Rings really riles up Randal and creates some of the best debates every put onto film including Return Of The King Vs Return Of The Jedi and George Lucas Vs Peter Jackson Vs Jesus.
As with the original movie, there are a slew of customers who are intent to make the working day harder and fans will be pleased to see Smith stalwarts Ben Affleck and Jason Lee making fleeting appearances.
Clerks II is a sequel that really works and should be made as essential viewing for any Hollywood writer/producer/director who is even thinking of putting a number 2 next to a movie.
Smith’s next move would be another bigger budget outing which finally turned his way. Next time we will be giving Zack and Miri a visit as they step into the world of adult entertainment in Zack And Miri Make A Porno.
Clerks II Key Info:Released: 21st July 2006 (US) / 22nd September 2006 (UK)Distributed by: The Weinstein CompanyBudget: $5,000,000Box Office Gross: $24,894,473Best DVD Edition: Clerks 2 (Two Disc Widescreen Version)