July 27, 2006


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Clerks 2 (PG-13)
Kevin Smith throws a big middle finger to the critics who say he can't make a serious movie (and to a lot of other people and things) by returning to his Red Bank, New Jersey, roots with Clerks II, finally an update on the lives of Quick Stop employees Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson).

Oh, giggle giggle, you boys.

Dante and Randal have continued their lives of sarcastic desperation more or less unvaried for the last decade until the day that Dante arrives to open the Stop and finds, not graffiti or gum in the lock, but the store going up in flames. Forced to find another form of menial employment, the boys land at Mooby's (the Disney-fied McDonald's that met with the wrath of the lord via Matt Damon in Dogma). The gig is a bit worse (uniforms are involved) but it has its perks — there's Jesus- and Lord of the Rings-freak Elias (Trevor Fehrman) for Randal to pick on and there's manager Becky (Rosario Dawson) for Dante to flirt with. And flirt he does despite the fact that he's engaged to smoking hot babe Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith — that's Mrs. Kevin Smith to you), a girl who is a mere day away from whisking Dante to Florida and a grown-up life of a house and a car wash he'll get to manage.

Dante wants the adult life (or at least he wants to want it) but he also really likes Becky and even confides in her with his reservations about his impending marriage. Randal's also a bit on edge — he doesn't want to see his best friend move away and he tries to distract himself by arranging a going away present. (What is Randal's gift? Well, think "stripper" and then add to that "donkey.")

And then there's the new and improved Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (the View Askew maestro Mr. Kevin Smith himself) — new and improved because the duo is just back from rehab where they lost the urge to toke but found Christ (the buddy version).

Is Clerks II a good movie? No. Is it a movie I enjoyed? Whole-heartedly yes.

The stilted dialogue, the freshman-film-student camera angles, the Star Wars-based fights — it all brings a warmth to my soul to a greater degree than the real-life memories from my own actual early 20s. And, sure, the actors are now in their 30s and are a bit pudgier, the movie is not quite so innovative or so sharp — but, heck, who among us who saw the original in our own optimistic youth isn't these things? Yes, Clerks II makes me feel a bit older but it does so with the standard Kevin Smith mix of sweetness and astounding profanity that makes my overall reaction a dewy-eyed "aw."

Clerks II is fun and even a little insightful about the whole maturity/ growing-older/what-am-I-going-to-do-with-the-rest-of-my-life thing. These characters might talk so dirty I'll bet the MPAA didn't even realize what half the filth meant but Smith likes these characters and allows them to have a certain amount of charm and humanity as well. Like a family reunion, Smith's friends (Scott Mosier, Jason Lee, Ben Affleck) and relatives (his wife, his mom, his geekily-named daughter Harley Quinn Smith) dance through the film in the most blatant cameos that nonetheless add to all the Jersey quaintness. It's nice to have the gang together again. B

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