Friday, July 21, 2006


Kevin Smith’s jolt of middle-age nostalgia makes “Clerks II” better than the original

Writer/director Kevin Smith returns to the stomping grounds of his 1994, breakthrough film “Clerks” and with the help of middle age nostalgia makes the rare movie sequel that’s better than the original.
Original leads Jeff Anderson and Brian O’Halloran are back as under-achievers Randall Graves and his longtime pal Dante Hicks. The fiery destruction of their longtime place of work, a rundown Quick Stop convenience store in New Jersey, is the gag that opens the film with a loving nod to the original tale. Rising from the ashes as non-spectacularly as possible, Graves and Hicks shift to equally dead-end jobs at a fast food joint named Mooby’s. Rosario Dawson sparkles as their pretty boss, Becky. Trevor Fehrman makes a welcome addition to the “Clerks” universe as Elias, a nerdy co-worker obsessed with the live action "Transformers" movie coming out next summer. Elias’ pop culture banter, a staple of Smith’s comedies, provides the biggest laughs in the film.
Gross Out gags, another Smith trademark, include a heavyset man having sex with a mule (Interspecies Erotica). They’re every bit as funny as they’re outrageous.
What sets Clerks II apart from Smith’s previous films (“Chasing Amy,” “Dogma,” “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” among others), what makes it the most enjoyable movie surprise of the summer, are the things Smith hasn’t tackled much before.
Sure, there are scenes of sweeping photography and a level of technical polish new to a Kevin Smith movie. But true growth lies in the sweetness, romance and yes, nostalgia, that Smith shows for his New Jersey slackers.
Randall and Dante ride go-karts to the sounds of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” as a means to unwind. In the film’s best scene, Dante wants to learn how to dance and Becky teaches him on the Mooby’s rooftop. Dante watches Becky dance to The Jackson Five’s “ABC” with a look of pure love.
It’s a wonderful, joyous moment, one that complements the film’s raunchy chitchat and gross out gags perfectly.
The world of American independent cinema has changed a lot since the guerrilla, no-money days when Smith made “Clerks.”
Smith has changed, too. He’s learned that gags work better when you surround them with a meaningful story.

The Weinstein Company will release “Clerks II” in theaters across North America July 21.

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