Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Movie Review: Clerks 2

When the rise of the independent film movement occurred in the early 90's, director Kevin Smith was upheld as one of the founding voices responsible for the growth of the movement. His debut film Clerks was a vulgar, obscene, low fidelity film that became a sensation, primarily because in addition to these qualities, it was also extremely smart and funny. Since that time, Smith has matured as a director, and though his films are still primarily low-budget affairs, they are certainly more than the $27,000 price tag of his first film. When Smith chose to revisit the film that started his career, many were skeptical he could meet the same level of success, or would merely create a pale imitation of the original.

Fortunately, Smith not only matched the magic of the first film with this second entry, but he may have very well exceeded it. In the second film, Dante and Randal (played once again by Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson) still feel imprisoned in a job they hate, this time in the fast food restaurant Mooby's (a fictional parody of McDonald's which has appeared in many of Smith's other films). The film occurs on Dante's last day, as he intends to move to Florida with a fiancee (Smith's wife, Jennifer Schwalbach) and a life that he honestly doesn't truly want. Resident wiseass Randal secretly is conflicted by this fact, as he feels his closest friend will leave him behind with a life that feels empty without Dante's companionship. The film details the dilemma Dante feels faced with: should he leave for Florida to fulfill a hollow expectation of a life, or stay in New Jersey with his best friend and his boss (Rosario Dawson) who he has fallen for?

For a film that is bursting with this many obscenities and vulgarity, one would think that it would be rather desensitized and shallow; however, the film succeeds at being a touching story of the love that two friends share for one another, and how important it is to the development of the characters as people. It also addresses the notorious Gen X question as to whether or not it is best to do what one wants with their life or to merely do what is expected of them. Very rarely has a film that would be deemed offensive by many carried so much heart.

I, however, was not offended by the film; in fact, I adored it. I have found all of Smith's films (with Jersey Girl possibly being the only exception) to be hysterical, but this may be his funniest effort yet. Jeff Anderson's Randal is still achingly funny as the eternal anti-social register jockey, and Brian O'Halloran's Dante plays a perfect foil to his antics. But the real superstar of this film is newcomer Trevor Fehrman as the sheltered, religious nerd Elias. His diatribes with Randal concerning his love of the Transformers and Lord of the Rings, and his description of his girlfriend's "Pillow Pants" were some of the funniest moments in the film. And the climactic Donkey Show was nothing short of comedy gold. And as always, Smith and his longtime friend Jason Mewes have memorable cameos as the mischevious stoners Jay and Silent Bob.

Smith has never set out to make Citizen Kane, but instead has always cared more about making entertaining films that are entertaining at fun. But he certainly deserves more credit as a serious filmmaker, for even in the midst of deviant sex, rampant political incorrectness, and an overall-demented world view, he has crafted a film that is truly personal, and even sweet. In the end, that is more than most comedies these days.

4 out of 5 stars

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