July 25, 2006

Movie Review: Clerks II

Now here is a film that is sure to bring in a split reaction. The split will probably be between the Smith faithful and everybody else, although there is sure to be some crossover. I am not sure that I can be counted among the the Smith fan club, but I do tend to enjoy his films, more often than not. For example, I loved Clerks and Chasing Amy, but was somewhere in the middle on Mallrats and Jersey Girl. After getting past the Smith fanboy scenem there is the issue of making a sequel to a cult indie flick from 12 years ago. I am happy to say that this film is a success.

It's crass, it's vulgar, and it has a heart of gold. We pick up with our favorite clerks, Dante and Randal, 12 years after the events of the original Clerks. Following the demise of the Quick Stop and the video store, after an unfortunate coffee pot fire, the duo have found themselves working at Mooby's, one of the local fast food chain establishments. As always, they have big dreams and very little motivation.

This day in the life film finds Dante on the cusp of a new way of life. He is engaged and about to move to Florida where his fiancee's family will give them a house and a job. It also happens to be a life he is not sure that he wants, and Randal knows he doesn't want. This day happens to be Dante's last day and Randal is set to make it a day to remember.

At the center of the film is the supreme hetero friendship between the two clerks, everything else is just icing on the cake. For as many f-bombs and perverted sexual comments as there are, they never become jokes for jokes sake, they all serve to reveal these characters, their insecurities, and their genuine friendship. This duo are meant to be together forever, regardless the cost. The journey they take over the course of the day is what this movie is about, the ending you may see coming, but it doesn't matter, this is about the characters.

I cannot remember the last time I laughed so hard. The jokes come from all angles, so funnier than others, but all working for me. There is the obligatory Star Wars conversation, this time involving a new trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, which combine to make up one of the best segments in the movie. This is also a good point to mention the introduction of a next generation clerk, Elias, a delightfully repressed and geeky compatriot who is set to be Randal's next best friend, pending Dante's impending move. Another aspect of wackiness is the much ballyhooed donkey show, which doesn't really go the way you may think. Also present are Jay and Silent Bob, back on the outside wall selling their wares and adding their own brand of stoned humor.

There was another cast addition here, Rosario Dawson as the Mooby's manager. She adds just the right amount of class to the crass surroundings. Her scenes with Dante bring a little dramatic heft, but not too much, just enough to help bring the heart home.

Everything in this movie feels comfortable. For fans of the original film, this will feel like a homecoming of sorts. As soon as these characters appear, no introduction is necessary, you are ready for Dante's neuroses and Randal's sharp tongued sarcasm. Moving further along, as soon as Jay and Silent Bob appear, you're laughing before they even utter a word.

Kevin Smith has shown his development of a director, he knows these characters and he knows not to repeat himself. He has brought these characters believably and logically into their future, they have the whole world in front of them, and Smith is opening it up for them. He has also learned to move the camera, a common criticism of his earlier work, here he uses the moving camera to fine effect. In the end, though, it is not the camera work we go to a Smith film, it's the dialog and characters, and he definitely delivers.

I have to reiterate, the humor may be outlandishly hilarious and insanely vulgar, but there is so much heart here. The characters open themselves up to each other completely, they define what it means to be a true friend. At first the hints are subtle, but the further into the film you go, the reality that these two friends share becomes abundantly apparent. They have grown up together, shared everything, and it is nearing an end, and it scares both of them, and they don't know how to express their fears. Smith weaves the words that brings these two together, and it is beautiful.

Bottomline. Heartfelt hilarity is the order of the day, but it isn't sappy, perhaps a bit sentimental. This is the comedy to see this year. I could watch 10 movies with these characters, not that I think there should be, but these characters are pitch perfect. See this movie!

Highly Recommended.
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