Clerks III, 2022.
Written and Directed by Kevin Smith.
Starring Jeff Anderson, Brian O’Halloran, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Rosario Dawson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Trevor Fehrman, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Austin Zajur, Justin Long, Harley Quinn Smith, Fred Armisen, Ben Affleck, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ralph Garman and Marc Bernardin.
Dante, Elias, and Jay and Silent Bob are enlisted by Randal after a heart attack to make a movie about the convenience store that started it all.
Everyone’s life is worthy of being a movie. That’s what writer/director Kevin Smith seems to believe, with decades-later sequel Clerks III centered on middle-aged Dante and Randal (still played by Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran, both noticeably improved actors bringing their A-game here) making a movie about all the crazy and often juvenile nonsense they have either said or seen gone down in the Quick Stop convenience store they run.
Clerks III aims to showcase how it would have gone down if Dante and Randal had made these movies, which could have resulted in an indulgent, nostalgic trip disaster. Admittedly, there are moments where Kevin Smith leans too far into this aspect, especially once the filmmaking process gets underway and a good portion of the middle section becomes a trip down memory lane. But he also has a personal reason for telling this story, whether he is pulling from his experience with a heart attack or a real-life falling out with Jeff Anderson that eventually got patched up (which is how and why this movie exists).
Dante and Randal are still visited by Bible-thumper Elias (Trevor Fehrman), who now has his own quirky Silent Bob sidekick (Austin Zajur). During an exchange about the stupidity of crypto-kite NFTS, Randal drops to the floor and is rushed to the hospital, where he learns he is having a heart attack. With his best friend Dante by his side, Randal’s insecurities and fears come to the forefront as he stares down mortality.
Sure, there is the usual expected crude humor, such as Randal not wanting a nurse (Justin Long in one of the film’s many cameos) to shave his groin because he doesn’t want his best friend to find out he has had a small penis the entire time while claiming it’s enormous. However, snippets of dialogue like Randal question the point of being in his 40s and caring so passionately about nerd culture and if it was a fulfilling way to live life pierces like a bullet considering super geek Kevin Smith possibly felt similarly.
Randall survives, and the hospital staff tells Dante that he will need to be there for his friend. Naturally, a near-death experience rewires someone mentally, meaning Dante will be counted on to offer optimism and support. Randal describes the situation as having his life flashed before his eyes, hence the idea to translate all these wild and unbelievable convenience store encounters into the cinematic arts. At times, it feels like Kevin Smith is justifying his decision to make Clerks in the first place, but he’s also tapping back into something honest and sincere about a road he has traveled.
Dante wants to help, but he’s also alone again in life. He has been following a tragic accident that took the life of Becky (Rosario Dawson, appearing in truly awkward fantasy sequences where she interacts with and offers advice to Dante). As such, there are a lot of memories he does not want to relive, which puts another fascinating spin on the dialogue surrounding this midlife crisis filmmaking endeavor.
It also becomes increasingly irritating for Dante to bend backward for Randal, who quickly becomes self-centered, demanding and rude towards his best friend.There is enough heart to get by and, of course, several hilarious pop-culture jokes. There’s also an audition segment that is nothing more than an excuse to provide over a dozen amusing cameos for Kevin Smith regulars.
The movie itself is consistently laugh-out-funny, finding the humor in the situation while also bringing back fan-favorite characters (Jay and Silent Bob, once again played by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, also take part in the filmmaking process with the latter giving himself a gut-busting rant about cinematography and artistic integrity). However, while sincere and ultimately moving, the endgame (see, I got pop-culture references too, Kevin Smith) involves a rushed third act with whiplash back-and-forth character behavior that weakens the emotional impact.
Clerks III is also a film that sets its opening credits to My Chemical Romance’s ‘Welcome to the Black Parade,’ so even if it is rough around the edges and messy, there’s a rollicking, brilliantly fitting soundtrack for the ensuing shenanigans and endearing bromance. Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran are terrific, eliciting laughter while also cutting to these lovably crass characters’ dramatic, existential core. It’s more in quality with Return of the Jedi than Return of the King, but I also don’t think Kevin Smith would have it any other way.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com