Plot: What’s it about?
Everyone knows the story of “Clerks” but here’s a recap in case you need one: In 1994, Kevin Smith maxed out his credit card to make a low-budget indie flick called “Clerks”. It was the story of two employees of the Quick Stop Grocery store and the goings-on of one day. The film was very candid and a major success, grossing nearly $3 million of the miniscule budget. It launched Kevin Smith to stardom and since he’s had a string of hits and misses with such films as “Mallrats”, “Dogma” and “Jersey Girl”. Now we flash forward a dozen years to 2006 and Kevin Smith announces that he’s doing a sequel to “Clerks” aptly entitled “Clerks II”. For fans of Smith, like myself, it was hard to swallow. I mean if this movie came out the next year or something, then that was fine. But Smith’s become very mainstream in the past decade and for him to go back to his roots seemed a bit absurd. But hey, I’m a Kevin Smith fan and like many others I’d see “Clerks II” just to see how it stacked up against the original.
“Clerks II” pretty much starts off with a bang. Dante (Brian O’Halloran) shows up at work only to find it in flames and he and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are forced to find employment elsewhere. As it turns out, they both now work at Mooby’s (and you’ll recognize the cow from other Smith films) where they essentially do the same thing: nothing. Dante is now engaged to Emma (Jennifer Schwalback-Smith, Kevin Smith’s real-life wife) and is set to move to Florida presumably for a better life and a chance to start fresh. As Randal tries to cope with the loss of his friend we learn that there’s been a little something going on with Dante and his manager, Becky (Rosario Dawson). I won’t say what, exactly, but let’s just say that it does affect the plot. There’s plenty in “Clerks II” that made the first one great but this one is far more risqué. Talk of sexual acts that I probably shouldn’t mention here, “interspecies” acts that I probably shouldn’t mention here and the definitive argument of which trilogy is better: Lord of the Rings or Star Wars.
“Clerks II” wasn’t as bad as I thought, the main players are back along with a sobered up Jay and Silent Bob. I don’t really think Smith was trying to re-create the past, but rather give us an updated version of it. The same banter is there, the same dark humor but a few things were off. First off, it’s in color (even though it starts off in black and white), it has a major Hollywood star in Rosario Dawson with cameos from Jason Lee, Ben Affleck and Wanda Sykes to name a few. I don’t know, it just seems the opposite of what “Clerks” was trying to say and do. Is it a worthy sequel to “Clerks”? I’d say yes. But I’ll also say that it’s not quite the same. Fans of Smith will have their own opinion, of course and if you’re a newcomer to these films – they have a tone all their own.
Video: How does it look?
“Clerks II” is shot in color and in a fairly good-looking 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer. The first movie was in black and white and very grainy. It’s part of what gave the movie its charm and allure. This one looks very glossy throughout, though there are some scenes that look a bit overexposed. I noticed some grain in the print, which might have been added to give it more of the look and feel of the original. Nevertheless, it’s a good-looking transfer, though there are far better ones out there.
Audio: How does it sound?
A Dolby Digital 5.1 track is used, and in certain points in the movie it sounds pretty decent. The film has a great soundtrack with plenty of good songs (and the “ABC/123” dance number speaks for itself) but as with most Smith movies, the main draw is dialogue and it speaks for itself (no pun intended). Surrounds aren’t really that active and most of the action is located to the front stage. Again, it’s a good-sounding track but there are far better out there as well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Kevin Smith was one of the early detractors of DVD but quickly changed his mind when he saw that it was here to stay. That said, his DVD’s are usually robust and full of supplements and this two-disc version is no exception. The first disc contains the movie along with three commentary tracks, two are more technical in nature and the third is an unused podcast. Smith gives some great tracks and if you’ve never heard them, they merit a listen for sure. The second disc contains the remainder of the supplements, starting off with an expansive 90 minute documentary entitled “Back to the Well: Clerks II”. The diary contains an introduction (as does the movie on the first disc) and literally covers the production of the movie from concept to completion. Smith and producer Scott Mosier give their take on what and why they decided to do the film and just about everything is covered in between, including the Kinky Kelly scene. Some outtakes are shown and Smith isn’t a believer in deleted scenes. Also included are about ten video production diaries. While “Clerks II” wasn’t quite the hit that the original was, it wasn’t the train wreck that I thought it would be. I still prefer the original for sentimental reasons, but Smith certainly hasn’t lost his touch.