So Dante and Randall are back – great news for all lovers of the original (and it was definitely original) movie.
OK, so fans of Clerks will be disappointed that the new film is in colour, has a bigger budget and is a lot slicker than the anarchically amateur looking 1994 film but the essential genius of the idea is intact.
Ten years have passed since quick-witted, ever-talkative, terminally-nerdy no hopers Dante and Randall eked out their existence as sales clerks at Quick Groceries in New Jersey’s equivalent of a seedy corner of Staines.
Those 10 years, with the cruelty of passing time, have turned those 22-year-olds into 32-year-olds. They have put on weight and started to sag, lost whatever bloom their youth might have ever sported and they are still in no hope jobs – now in a fast food establishment which makes McDonalds look like the restaurant of Jamie Oliver’s dreams.
They might not have made it into the comfortable world of over achievers, but they have kept their wit and their sardonic ability to analyse the world from their own perspective dominated by thoughts of sex, computer games and the Star Wars trilogy.
Kevin Smith’s debut film was made when he was still working in the convenience store where the story line was based and they could only film at night when it was closed.
Money was tight and most of the actors were amateur. All this gave the film an unbeatable authenticity that the more professional sequel has to struggle to match.
Brian O’Halloran (Dante) and Jeff Anderson (Randall), almost like characters in a long running TV reality show, have aged with their characters and, to an uncanny degree, have even grown up with them. Will they return every 10 years to give us their refreshing anarchy? I hope so.
This film, like its predecessor, is really an extended dialogue between the two main characters given tremendous zest by O’Halloran and Anderson’s rapport.
They are a great double act, an American equivalent of Withnail and more than a pinch of pepper is added to the mix by their realisation that time has indeed moved on and conventional life has still not quite claimed them.
Written with real humour, social observation and cultural bite by director Kevin Smith, it is never frightened of being just plain vulgar like the bizarre debate about the doubtful attractiveness of Dante’s fiancé Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach) whose “over-sized clit is just an under-sized dick”.
Fans of the first film will be delighted that Smith also reprised his character of Silent Bob, the straight man to acid head, street dancing Jay (the irrepressible Jason Mewes). The other pair of bonded male buddies and the most unlikely drug dealers in movie history.
Maybe it is part of Kevin Smith’s feel for real life that he is not frightened to recognise the essential role of sentimentality in friendship as well as in romantic love.
Rosario Dawson is way too raunchy and charismatic to be a conventional Miss Right anyway – she even has a passing interest in “inter species eroticism” for Gawd’s sake.
Trevor Fehrman as the young and impressionable virgin Baptist, Elias manages to hold his own (literally at one point) in this dynamic cast and has some of the best jokes too as Kevin Smith mercilessly and hilariously sends up The Lord of the Rings and its many disciples.
One thing Smith could never be accused of is not giving his fans value for money and, true to form, this latest View Askew DVD release is packed full of entertaining special features.
As well as three, count ‘em three, commentaries from Smith, producer Scott Mosier and the cast, there is also a 90-minute “Back to the Well” documentary that chronicles the struggles Smith faced in getting the original team back together again.
There are also ten lively video diaries which take us behind the scenes of the New Jersey shoot, one of which even captures the astonishing 8 minute standing ovation that the movie received at the Cannes Film Festival.
Completing the package are 16 deleted scenes, over half an hour of bloopers, a couple of Easter eggs, and last but not least, a featurette entitled “A Closer Look at Interspecies Erotica”. Say no more.
Both films have their floundering moments but second time round, the weaknesses are less to do with inexperience as with the growing sentimentality of dawning middle age. As such Clerks II is a Hollywood buddy movie like many another but it also has a touch of Four Weddings and a Funeral as Dante’s on off, nice girl/awful girl romances wax and wane.
Clerks II is very funny and very rude about religion, race, drugs, popular culture and, of course, sex. It has kept an alternative voice ringing in our ears when many other films preach sermons on the value of material and professional success in our ever more competitive culture.
It may not be the greatest film ever made but go see it - after hiring the first film before you go – it might just make you feel better about yourself.
It will definitely make you laugh unless you’ve never been amused by the vulnerability, nerdiness and innate slobbishness of masculinity.
Staring: Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jennifer Schwalbach, Jason Mewes
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Extras: Audio commentary from director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and cinematographer Dave Klein, Audio commentary from director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and cinematographer Dave Klein with actors Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Jason Mewes, Brian O'Halloran & Jennifer Schwalbach, Podcast commentary from Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and actor Jeff Anderson, Deleted scenes, Introduction to the film by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier, 'A Closer Look At Interspecies Erotica' featurette, 'Back To The Well' documentary, Blooper reel, Video production diaries, Easter Eggs (hidden features)