Kevin Smith has at all times had an inclination for self-mythologising. Again in 1994, he shot Clerks on a wing, a prayer, and a mountain of bank card debt – turning his behind-the-counter experiences right into a generation-defining slacker comedy, filmed by the night time on the real-life Fast Cease store he as soon as labored at in New Jersey. From there, his increasing ‘View Askewniverse’ has mirrored and refracted numerous elements of the broader Smythology: his love of comedian books in Mallrats (he since opened an actual comedian e book store named after fictional characters Jay & Silent Bob), his wranglings with Catholicism in Dogma, and his emotions on fatherhood and keenness for weed in 2019’s Jay & Silent Bob Reboot.
Clerks III is Smith at his most self-reflexive. After checking again in on Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) in 2006’s Clerks II – taking the middle-aged pair out of Fast Cease, right into a Mooby’s quick meals restaurant, and finally again to their outdated hang-out as homeowners – he returns to his authentic shit-shooting duo as soon as extra as they strategy 50. Every has at all times represented a aspect of Smith himself – Dante bored, sorry for himself, and wishing to be anyplace else however behind a until in Jersey, Randal (an element Smith initially wrote for himself, gifted all of the funniest traces) good and sharp-tongued and obsessive about pop-cultural trivia. This time, Randal suffers a ‘widow-maker’ coronary heart assault that very almost kills him – simply as Smith did in 2018, mining hyper-specific particulars from his personal brush with loss of life – and responds to his renewed sense of mortality by deciding to make his personal film about clerks on the Fast Cease; successfully, Clerks.
It is the Kevin Smith of the previous, remixed by Kevin Smith of the current.
Does Clerks III, then, symbolize a shameless re-treading of outdated floor, reliant on limitless callbacks and acquainted faces from earlier Smith movies, or is it a piece of ouroborosian metatextual genius? The reply is a little bit of each – it’s the Smith of the previous remixed by the Smith of the current, veering between disappointing and deeply affecting from scene to scene.
Having lengthy held out on making a threequel attributable to Anderson’s reluctance to return as Randal, Smith’s endurance is in the end rewarded – Anderson and O’Halloran are each glorious, slipping again into their old-couple bickering dynamic brilliantly, their chemistry completely pure, honed over many years of taking part in these characters. Randal nonetheless will get the funniest traces, whether or not praying to Conan the Barbarian’s god after struggling his heart-attack (“Are you there, Crom? It’s me, Randal”), attempting to get his head all over the world of cryptocurrency (“Make-pretend Matrix cash”), or ruminating on his cinematic ambitions (“I see myself extra like retail’s Richard Linklater”). O’Halloran too wrings laughs and pathos from the ever-pitiable Dante – notably in (one more) Star Wars riff as he tries to determine what place he occupies in Randal’s screenplay (“I’m not even the Lobot?!”). His fantastic chemistry with Rosario Dawson’s Becky from Clerks II is an undisputed spotlight right here – although the character of Dawson’s position this time is a peculiar, bitter capsule to swallow.
It’s within the humour division that Clerks III stumbles. Whereas much less reliant on relentless cameos than Jay & Silent Bob Reboot, it nonetheless typically stops lifeless in its tracks to crowbar in appearances from the Smith roster. Trevor Fehrman’s Elias, nice enjoyable in Clerks II, is manner too outstanding right here, taking part in on a cartoonish register at odds with the remainder of proceedings, landed with a sluggish comedic riff about his shift from hardcore Christian to satan worshipper, and given his personal pointless Silent Bob-alike sidekick in Austin Zajur’s Blockchain. The movie lacks a killer popular culture rant like Clerks’ Loss of life Star contractors sequence, or Clerks II’s Star Wars vs Lord Of The Rings nerd-off, and is disappointingly flat visually as properly, missing the scuzzy black-and-white aesthetic of the unique or the pastel-purgatory of Clerks II. Regardless of being a movie so intently about Clerks, it doesn’t at all times really feel like a Clerks film – partially attributable to tonal lapses into Jay & Silent Bob wacky stoner gags, and in rejecting the set-across-a-single-day formulation of the earlier entries.
However when it will get past the peripheral characters and focuses on Dante and Randal, Clerks III delivers a few of Smith’s most arresting work in years. Mockingly, Clerks III’s coronary heart is totally unblocked – and like with Clerks II’s jail-cell meltdown and Reboot’s mini-Chasing Amy sequel, Smith proves that when he will get emotional, he’s nonetheless actually received it. For all that Smith and his gamers are clearly revelling in reliving the previous, it step by step turns into clear that Dante is caught circling ever-deeper pits of hell – culminating in a brilliantly-conceived re-do of Clerks’ salsa-shark scene, O’Halloran letting unfastened in a fantastically brutal outpouring of rage. Marilyn Ghigliotti is equally dedicated in her return as Dante’s authentic girlfriend Veronica, whereas the end result of Randal’s moviemaking try will likely be emotional kryptonite to viewers with decades-long affection for the central duo.
Because the third Clerks film, mainly about Clerks itself, Clerks III is resolutely one for the followers – however when you’ve lengthy purchased into Kevin Smith’s sprawling self-mythology, this can be a surprisingly transferring new chapter in his ongoing, Alanis Morrissette-approved bible.