Thursday 25 January 2007

Clerks II (2006) Kevin Smith

I was really impressed by Clerks, the low budget black and white film by the then unknown independent filmmaker Kevin Smith. I really shouldn't have been, given that Smith's tastes really don't tend to match mine too often, but he won me over with that one. In fact if I were to create a list of everything that I don't find funny in modern American cinema, it would include huge swathes of the moronic behaviour that Smith tends to cover as a matter of course in all his movies: frequent drug use, casual sex, random streams of profanity and the bizarre concept of stupidity as a goal.

However I do understand that this moronic behaviour is precisely what most of America spends its youth doing and he does his job well enough to have plenty of affinity with plenty of people. The honesty shines through, as does Kevin Smith's talent for writing dialogue, even though his actors aren't usually up to the task of reciting it properly. I also appreciate his talent for analysing popular culture in unconventional ways.

Clerks was about a day in the life of two of these morons, Dante and Randal, who work in a convenience store called the Quick Stop. It was self financed and shot in black and white on a tiny budget that was outstripped by the cost of securing the soundtrack rights. That was apparently a first for the film industry and it's not the only dubious title the film owns: it's also apparently the most stolen videotape ever from rental stores.

Twelve years later, after many other successful and often insightful comedies like Dogma and Chasing Amy, Smith finally bowed to the pressure and made Clerks II, which opens with the Quick Stop burning to a crisp, thus forcing Dante and Randal to finally move on. However they only move on as far as Mooby's, a fast food restaurant where we get to see another day in their mostly pointless existences. Dante is about to leave for Florida to get married (to Smith's real life wife and former USA Today journalist Jennifer Schwalbach, who looks truly scary here), but that would split up the partnership of nothingness between him and Randal.

I'm sure that Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson appreciated the work as they've done very little except play Dante and Randal for the entire intervening time since the original film. I hope they find something else of substance to do because posterity can't look back too well on two people being famous merely for playing two people who don't do anything. They're far from the only constant here, but there's nothing here that isn't in the first film except colour. I get the impression that Kevin Smith could improvise dialogue like this for days at a time, and I'm not sure if that means he's really talented or none of it is really special. Is the price of a movie ticket worth it if Smith could make a film just as good every day for a year?

I really shouldn't like Clerks II, but somehow I do, just as I liked Clerks. Maybe it makes me feel superior because whatever I am, at least I'm not Dante or Randal or Jay or Silent Bob or any of the other morons in this film. Then again almost anyone could watch almost any comedy of the last ten years and feel superior to almost any character in them. At least I hope so. Maybe Smith is right and most people don't want to aim that high.

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