After Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, everyone thought that Kevin Smith was done with his View Askew series (begun with Clerks in 1994), that he’d moved on to more mature work, born out of his new role as father. That more mature work was Jersey Girl; though an entertaining film, it wasn’t very successful at the box office. Thankfully, Smith returns to his origins and delivers a sharp and entertaining treatise on relationships and growing older.
Unsurprisingly, this film is more similar to Clerks than any of the other Askew films. Less slapstick than Mallrats or Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, less serious than Chasing Amy or Dogma, Clerks II is a good balance of funny dialogue and “dick and fart” jokes. The film feels like a sequel to Clerks, both in tone and content; this is impressive considering it was made 12 years later.
The acting is very good, with almost everyone putting in strong performances. Particularly notable are Rosario Dawson and Trevor Fehrman. Fehrman, relatively new to films, holds his own with veteran Dawson and the other cast. The only acting blip is Smith’s wife Jennifer Schwalbach who struggles a bit in a smaller role. There are also a number of funny cameos, both from Askew alumni and familiar TV faces.
Along with the cameos, there are several clever nods to the original Clerks. Smith plays it smart and limits the in-jokes, careful not to alienate anyone unfamiliar with his earlier work. This isn’t Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, after all. The production design is also very clever, with many funny products and signs in the background. This film will improve on multiple viewings.
I do have a few minor quibbles with the film, but they in no way diminished my viewing enjoyment. The working environment is fairly unrealistic, for one: since when do fast food restaurants only have four employees and customers who always have something smart or funny to say? Also, I would’ve liked to see more retail venting, as shown in the first Clerks. Some of the funniest moments came from Randall ripping into the occasional customer and this doesn’t happen as often in Clerks II.
All in all, Clerks II proves that Kevin Smith can still make funny, mature films, even if they’re filled with dick and fart jokes.