Kevin Smith is a man who loves to talk. It’s ironic, given one of his most famous characters. And yet, it’s never, ever boring. Smith has a way of pulling in the audience with his enthusiasm for the topic he wants to discuss.
This also applies to his work as a filmmaker. For almost 30 years, Smith has been using the gift of gab to tell stories. Stories that he’s passionate about, that he wants to tell and share with audiences. The “View Askewniverse” is a perfect example of this.
Beginning in 1994 with the original Clerks, Smith’s ode to his home state of New Jersey is populated with so many interesting, quirky stories. Yet, as the years go on, these movies have become oddly heartwarming. It becomes more and more like reuniting with old friends. That’s especially prevalent with Clerks III.
Set 16 years after the events of Clerks II and three years after “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” the ninth overall View Askew film finds our heroes Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall (Jeff Anderson) still working at the Quick Stop. Times may have changed in the past 16 years, but these lovable doofuses haven’t. Same goes for Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith), who are still hanging out in front of the Quick Stop but also own the former video store next door, turning it into a weed shop.
One day, Randall suddenly has a massive heart attack and is rushed to the hospital. He survives but is suddenly faced with the morality of his own life or lack thereof. No longer wanting to waste the borrowed time he feels he has left, Randall decides to take his knowledge of movies and apply it to making an actual movie.
What will said movie be about? Randall’s time working at the Quick Stop and all the dumb customers/weird conversations he’s seen and heard over the years.
Yes, Smith has finally brought his characters full circle and has them embark onto the path he himself started back in the early 90s. While this may seem self-satisfying to some, what transpires is genuinely one of the funniest and most heart-wrenching movies I’ve seen this year.
Having suffered a near-fatal heart attack himself in 2018, he translates his feelings on that beautifully in this script. All the anger, humor, and worry that he feels about what happened to him are embodied so beautifully in Randall’s character.
Focusing Clerks III on Smith’s early career was a great choice too. Not only does Smith beautifully recreate shots from the original Clerks (as well as bring back some familiar faces), but also it’s a weird catharsis for him. Here, Smith gets a chance to recognize some of the difficulties and challenges he himself faced 30 years ago. The meta-commentary and humor oddly work here. It’s able to blend in nicely with the more dramatic moments.
While Randall is still the same wiseass we still know and love, this time, something feels different. There’s a sense of urgency and manic sense to the character this time. Randall moves as if the clock is ticking. Which, given his experience, he kind of is. In a way, it feels like Randall finally grew up. Kudos to Jeff Anderson for finding even more layers to this character after all this time and adding even more depth while keeping the humor of Randall.
Brian O’Halloran is terrific too. Without spoiling, something happens to Dante that leaves him a much different man than what we’ve seen in the prior two films. He, too, must face his own morality, but in a completely different way from Randall. O’Halloran still keeps Dante’s wry humor, but there’s a subtle undertone of bitterness Both O’Halloran and Anderson still have terrific chemistry together. There’s a scene with the two of them towards the end of the film that is just absolutely electrifying to watch.
However, Trevor Fehrman is the biggest scene stealer here, as he was in Clerks II. Without spoiling, he might be my favorite part of the whole movie. His character went through the funniest character arc, one that provided constant belly laughs out of me. His comedic timing is fantastic here.
And, of course, Jay and Silent Bob are wonderful as usual. Thirty years later, Jason Mewes and Smith still have wonderful chemistry together. Their sweet and utter dopey nature is infectious here. At the premiere screening in Red Bank I attended (the first of Smith’s “Inconvenience Tour”), their first appearance got one of the biggest cheers of the night.
The number of cameos and easter eggs throughout Clerks III are so good I don’t dare to spoil them. There were a lot of moments throughout our screening that had the audience howling. Really, this was the best way to experience the film: seated among fans, reveling in all that was happening.
I can not heap any more praise onto this than I already have. Clerks III is a genuine triumph. It brings the characters we love full circle, delivering some giant laughs and terrific drama. I did not expect to love this as much as I did. One of the most pleasant surprises of the year.