With yesterday being a day off, I took in an early afternoon screening of Clerks II. As someone who's had my fill of the cheerleading and mudslinging of writer/director Kevin Smith over the years, I wondered if I was seeing this flick out of some sense of loyalty. Well, shortly into the movie, I understood why I wanted to see this.
I was someone who didn't really get into Kevin's films until college, roughly a year before Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back came out. I had seen Clerks and Mallrats in high school, but didn't understand their brilliance until I saw Chasing Amy and Dogma. Make no mistake, the five movie posters signed by Kevin that hang in my room are a testament to my fandom. Now I'm at a point where I still really enjoy Kevin's writing (especially his Darth Vader piece in Rolling Stone last year) and all of his films, but I've had enough of Kevin Smith, the dodgy stand-up comedian and target for arguments among fanboys. Trying to speak of the merits in all of his films (including Jersey Girl) usually results in catty comments, eye-rolling and general immature warfare. I just don't have the desire to be around that stuff anymore.
When I heard there was going to be a sequel to Clerks, after much ballyhoo that the View Askewniverse was finished with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, I felt this was pandering to the crowd that attends his Q&As. So there was a definitely large degree of trepidation on my part to skip out of the theatrical release of Clerks II and maybe rent it on DVD later this year. But, the word from Kevin and a number of reputable critics said that this film was about what happens when the world leaves the aging angry young man behind, I felt like this was right up my alley.
I can safely say Clerks II is right up my alley, in addition to the sidewalk and fire escape. While the vulgarity in the film feels like it's being vulgar for the sake of being vulgar, the heart of the film is what really makes this film work. Dealing with deeply-rooted friendships and romantic love may make immature fanboys squirm, but this is stuff that I, along with plenty of other people, often think about. This shows the kind of maturity Kevin showed in Jersey Girl, but works better in this film.
Something that was used effectively in Jersey Girl is used even more effectively in Clerks II: music montages. I'm talking scenes where no dialogue is spoken and it's all action. Jersey Girl features fantastic scenes with songs by Aimee Mann, Ben Folds and the Cure. Clerks II ups the ante with songs by Talking Heads, B.J. Thomas, the Jackson 5 and Smashing Pumpkins. To be honest, the go-kart racing scene with "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" is one of the most genuine scenes Kevin has put to film.
Genuine emotion has a major part in this film. Forget the stylized dialogue that Kevin has been known for -- all of the main characters in this film give the kind of convincing emotion last seen in full display in Chasing Amy. While a donkey show may gross most people out, the sincerity of other scenes, like serious conversations between Dante and Randal and Dante and Becky, are what makes this all worth the while.
Why something like Clerks II hits close to home is because of this theme: we know we're not kids anymore, but we're not too hot on the idea of bending over backwards to society's norms. We may look foolish as angry young men/women in the bodies of twenty- or thirty-somethings, but we can't help it. We don't want to become pawns of society, but whether we like to admit it or not, we're already are in some form or fashion. Clerks II doesn't have the answers and doesn't try to sugar-coat matters, but it doesn't beat you over the head with negative or overtly harsh realities.
Clerks II is a film that couldn't have been imagined in 1994 by Kevin. This film comes straight from the heart and from a lot of growing in the twelve years since the original Clerks. I know hardcore fans will always hold flicks like Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy closer to their hearts, but I look forward to more of the growth Kevin has shown in recent years. Sure, he panders to the "Snoochie Boochies!" crowd at his Q&A's, does hammy skits for The Tonight Show and merchandises his soul for big chunks of change, but there's still plenty of genuine emotion and feeling that translates for me. I don't know how much longer I'll have those View Askewniverse posters up in my room, but I'll never forget how much his films and his writing have meant to me.