Saturday, July 22, 2006

Clerks II

Written and directed by Kevin Smith
Weinstein Company/MGM

I really like Kevin Smith. I think his willingness to push the envelope with did-I-just-hear-that dialogue and situations separate him from your average comedy writer/director looking for a break with your typical T & A fare. But sometimes, Smith can be an infuriating filmmaker who isn't beyond the cheap laugh, and sometimes he can't ferret out things that don't work. You can watch any of his films: Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Jersey Girl, and see this uneven slope he walks every time out.

Hard to criticize a guy who isn't trying to exactly make art, but then we get into that whole argument about criticism in general that we could have a huge debate over with Lady in the Water or Pirates of the Caribbean as well. I don't think most critics are looking for high art in a movie like Clerks II. But I think most do demand that it be consistent, and the highs outweigh the lows.

Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) have to change their shitty jobs from the Quick Stop and video store to another shitty job at a Mooby's fast food place after Randal accidentally burns down their former workplace. Dante is engaged to be married to Emma (Smith's wife Jennifer Schwalbach) and he's going to leave New Jersey for Florida with her. Just like in the original Clerks, this girlfriend is way cool with everything and seems perfect, but just like in all of Smith's movies, the main character always wants the whore, and that is played here sweetly by Rosario Dawson as Becky--although she's not the "bad girl" like Caitlin Bree in the original--besides, Rosario Dawson is freaking hot. So, once again, that whole idea of becoming a man, and what society thinks that is, comes to conflict.

Clerks II is, of course, no comic masterpiece, but it did make me laugh quite a bit. Smith is funniest when he riffs on movies and taboo topics--this is where the movie will grab you and for the most part, that's what it is. But where Smith loses it in several scenes is when something isn't all that particularly funny--when the Christian employee (Trevor Fehrman) starts talking about how he can't have sex with his girlfriend because of a troll that lives "down there" to protect her virginity--it drags along like a deleted scene. And one of the things about the original's tight maxed-out credit card budget was the little emphasis on editing and cutting, which forced attention to the dialogue. Here, everything seems kind of choppy, and the movie doesn't flow, and it hurts a bit.

But would I watch it again? The movie is fun, and just like any of those comedies that have tremendous flaws, like Office Space, or Smith's own Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, I can see myself walking past in on TV and just sitting down to watch the rest. And I'm sure that's what Smith wants you to feel during this--hey, it's never going to be perfect, but at least I'll make you laugh every once in awhile.


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