Short version: Clerks II can only possibly be enjoyed by hardcore fans of the original. It was like digging through a huge pile of cow dung to get to a very small pearl at the bottom.
Since I don’t generally write objective reviews, here’s what you need to know before you read this:
1. When the original Clerks first came out, I kind of enjoyed it in a looking-at-bugs-in-a-jar kind of way.
2. I was raised in New Jersey.
3. I am more than 10 years older than the main characters in the movie.
Got all that? Good. For the most part, Clerks II was excruciatingly vile. I almost got up and walked out more than once, but made myself stay seated because first, I can’t write a review of a film I haven’t seen all the way through, and also due to morbid curiosity of where it would end up.
My rationale for the rating is that I would have given it a 1/2, but the last 10 minutes bumped it up half a point. I wouldn’t have gone lower than a half star because (if you don’t mind or can get past the HUGE crassness of this film), it did make me chuckle a couple of times.
The film opens in black and white, with Dante (Brian O’Halloran, reprising his role, as do all the actors in the film) arriving at the Quick Mart (or whatever it was called, opening the security door and finding it completely ablaze. His best friend Randal (or as I like to call him: Diarrhea Mouth) shows up and walks right past the firefighters and into the charred store, completely oblivious to the goings on. Cut to “Mooby’s” the film’s version of every fast food joint out there. Mooby’s was actually the source of quite a few chuckles (for me, anyway) with the little signs and mottos in the background (Try Mooby’s Cow Pies!)
Anyway our two intrepid losers, er, I mean “heroes” have shifted from the Quick Mart to Mooby’s as far as their regular jobs are concerned. Yeah, ok, I get it… that’s the POINT of the movie, but man… early 30’s and working at a fast food joint? NOT as a manager?
All right, short plot summary: our main guy finally landed an uber-babe with great looks and money. The problem is that she’s got about 10 years on him and is totally controlling. They’re going to dump Jersey, head to Florida where he will be beholding to his in-laws in regards to a new home and a job. Another problem is that there is an obvious attraction between him and the manager of Mooby’s, longtime friend and simmering-beneath-the-surface romantic interest Becky (played by Rosario Dawson). And of course, best buddy doesn’t want him to leave.
The two icons of Clerks return as well after 6 months of rehab and apparently having found Jesus. Although I always enjoy Kevin Smith in his role as the silent one, the other guy is starting to also seem too old to be hanging out in front of a fast food joint selling drugs. Again, yeah, I know “these guys never grew up.”
So the main questions are will Dante leave for Florida and get married, finally getting the fresh start he’s wanted his whole life (albeit with some major strings attached), or will he stay in Joisey and solidify his relationship with Becky?
Now that doesn’t make for too bad of a journey, the problem is what we have to endure along the way. The character of Randall could not be more idiotic, mean and despicable. He’s just an immature dirtbag to the core, who rationalizes it with a view that his best friend exists to be his counterbalance. The sheer amount of rank dialogue you will have to endure if you show up for this flick would curdle milk. It’s not just the endless profanity, but the lousy attitudes, the sick sexual stuff that is discussed in excruciating detail, and the portrayal of a young geeky Christian guy as a total and complete idiot who of course needs to have his eyes opened by Randall, the great and wise.
I read about Joel Siegel leaving a screening of Clerks II due to an explicit conversation centered on human/donkey relations and I have got to tell you, I don’t blame the guy. I found it funny how Smith came back and railed against Seigel’s use of “cutesy” headlines when endorsing films, which yes, is a bit corny… but geez, how about a middle ground?
The movie gets progressively harder to take, and the gross factor peaks right before the last 10 minutes or so that somewhat bring the dial ever so slightly to the “redeeming” side. I liked how the end showed a good compromise between being the Jersey slackers that they were, staying put, and actually taking on some responsibility.
However, as I stated above, the overall effect is like digging through a huge pile of cow dung in order to finally retrieve a very small pearl. Maybe I’ve just outgrown this stuff, after all one of my favorite movies a long time ago was Animal House, and I wonder what I’d think of it if I saw it again today. The thing that struck me was that all around me the 20-something crowd were laughing their heads off throughout the movie, so maybe I just don’t know what I’m talking about.
Either that or I was in an audience comprised exclusively of hard core Kevin Smith/Clerks fans. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, I would highly suggest that you give Clerks II a pass.
Oh, and if it’s a case of “I just don’t get it.”, I’ll tell you what: I don’t WANT to get it, m’kay?