Clerks II is the sequel to the critically acclaimed cult hit Clerks. It was originally to be titled The Passion of the Clerks, but the title was scrapped when the joke became stale and passé. Released in 2006, Clerks II tells the story of Dante and Randal 10 years later: what happened, what went right, what went wrong. It was written and directed by Kevin Smith, and produced by View Askew and Weinstein Productions.
I’ll come clean before I write any more. I loved Clerks. I’ve seen it at least a dozen times. I’m surprised I can still find the DVD with how many times I loaned it to people. So I went into Clerks II apprehensive, to say the best. I’d heard that it had done a good job, but I didn’t see how it could live up to the original.
Well, I was delighted. It didn’t fall into the pitfall of trying to be the next Clerks. It didn’t do what so many other ten-years-later sequels have done, which is to rehash old jokes, show you characters you remember and expect you to be carried away just by the weight of their reappearances. What it did do is continue the story. If the characters were ever believable to you, they’ll continue to be, because it’s a pretty apt picture of where their lives would go after Clerks.
Do you remember at the beginning of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, how Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith, respectively) were still hanging out in front of the Quik Stop, and Dante and Randal were still working there? That was canon. Moreover, that movie was set in 2001, seven years after Clerks. Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) never got out.
Clerks II is set eleven years after the two started working at the Quik Stop. A year ago, the building burned down, and they had to get new jobs. Having no experience (the college courses they decided to take after Clerks. sort of petered out), they get jobs at Mooby’s, the idol-worshipping fast food chain that was introduced as a throwaway joke in Dogma.
Flash forward a year, and Dante is about to leave for Florida with his fiancée Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith). Of course, he’s having lingering doubts, as is everybody around him. On the surface, it’s the right decision: a pretty, rich girl who loves him, and her daddy will buy them everything they need to get started in life. But if he goes, he’ll be taking the easy route out, abandoning his friends, and giving up his life. I won’t give away the ending for you, but you can probably guess it; it’s not exactly posed as a difficult choice.
What makes Clerks II so good is that it’s really funny, but is still asking serious questions. The pop culture back-and-forth, the endless string of scatological jokes thrown in the face of prudes, and (surprisingly) a good dash of slapstick combine with a plot about friendship, abandonment, and identity to make a movie that feels an awful lot like Clerks.
People may complain that the movie is too different. These people are losing sight of the fact that what separates the two is (a) character development over the course of 10 years and (b) a lot more money available to Kevin Smith. The original film was shot on a shoestring budget that limited filming to after-hours at the convenience store where Smith was working, among other things. The clever cinematography of important scenes is still here, and frankly, if you have writing, humor, depth, and cinematography, what else do you need?
Also of note is that the two excruciatingly bad actresses playing Dante’s girlfriends in the original are (thankfully, gloriously) nowhere to be seen. Their replacements, Emma and Becks (Dante's and Randal's boss, played by Rosario Dawson) are capable of remembering the entire sentences, and Becks is, to quote etouffee, smokin'.
Clerks II is not going to have the same impact as Clerks. did. It’s not the same movie, and it’s not trying to accomplish the same things. But in the end, if you liked Clerks., you’ll probably enjoy Clerks II. If you didn’t like Clerks., well, see the sequel with friends, because it’s the same people responsible. If you never saw Clerks., don’t worry: nothing is ruined by seeing the sequel. But even so, you should all consider seeing this movie, the rare epitome of a good sequel.