After being absolutely bowled over by the brilliance of Clerks a few days ago, I just had to seek out the sequel. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much – I thought that if Kevin Smith could just capture a fraction of the brilliance from the first film, then the film would be worth it. Needless to say, he did show up to do his very best, and Clerks II might be that rare sequel that isn’t quite better than the original, but pretty much equally as great, and it captures so much of what made Clerks fantastic, and put it in a more mainstream setting, which was an interesting approach.
Much like the first film, Clerks II takes place entirely within one day in the lives of two hapless clerks. Both Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) return, and have clearly changed, but not by much. Dante is still the ambitious but conflicted man that wants a better future, and he is planning to move down to Florida the very next day to get married and start a new life as a car-wash manager. Randal is still the immature and inappropriate slacker that stole the show in the previous film, and the fact that he is deeply in adulthood and still working in a fast-food joint clearly begins to bother him, but not by much. Joining them are the awkward and nerdy young Elias (Trevor Fehrman) and the sweet and intelligent manager of the establishment, Becky (Rosario Dawson). This quartet are clearly not meant to be anywhere other than the fast food industry, and their adventures throughout this film is only made more compelling by the fantastic chemistry the cast has with each other.
The best part about Clerks II is that it is that rare sequel that doesn’t set out to accomplish exactly what the first film achieved, but it also didn’t completely try and reinvent itself as a completely different film. Smith and the cast brought back these beloved characters, and retained the best part of Clerks – the hilarious dialogue, the nerdiness and the absolute randomness, but added some unique heart and radically different elements that set this film apart from its predecessor. However, it managed to have the same spirit that made the original Clerks so fantastic, so Clerks II occupies a strange space – it will satisfy the indie fans of the original film, and also be a suitably entertaining film for those who are unaware of Clerks or the View Askewniverse, which is something quite difficult to achieve, but it was done to great effect here, and while it is flawed, it is certainly a great film and a fantastic sequel to a great film.
Clerks II follows the basic formula that made the original Clerks so great – set over a short span of time (about a day), the characters try and go about their day, but various adventures and mishaps occur, plunging the characters into a variety of situations. Some memorable moments in the day of the characters include an elaborate (and very awe-inspiring) musical number, a sadistic entertainer, cameos from other established View Askewniverser such as Ben Affleck and Jason Lee, and one of the sweetest and most funny endings in any comedy film. It is a formula that works really well – there is not any conceivable end-goal, rather Smith approaches this story just like how any great indie film would – by making it as true to life as possible. There isn’t much of a story here, but the characterization is impeccable and the actors are on the very top of their game. It is a pity that out of the main cast, it is only Rosario Dawson who has had a developed film career, which is unfortunate, as O’Halloran, Anderson and Fehrman (who I don’t believe has been in a film since, which saddens me because his performance here was one of the very best of the year, and most certainly he is the scene-stealer that elevated this film beyond any expectations I had going in) are also fantastic and deserve the acclaim and popularity that other View Askewniverse alumni have enjoyed.
Clerks II is a fantastic film. It may not be to everyone’s taste – Kevin Smith sometimes does go too far, and there is an abundance of vulgar language, but it is all worth it, because Clerks II is just wonderful. It will definitely appeal to fans of the original film, and it will surely bring in many new fans to the film. It has been ten years since its release, and it is still fresh, fast and very funny. Kevin Smith hasn’t made great films for a very long time, so I am hoping that when he gets around to making Clerks III (which he has promised), he brings back the brilliance that he has defined himself with here. A wonderful sequel to an iconic and brilliant independent comedy, and one that should most certainly be watched by anyone in the retail or service industry.