Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Junk Food: With “Clerks II” Kevin Smith Fans Rejoice and Others Proceed with Caution


I wanted to like Clerks II. I really, really wanted to like it. I’m not much of a fan of Kevin Smith’s films. Dogma seemed over my head and was a drag to sit through. Mallrats was simply just uninteresting. And I never had any real desire to see any of the other ones. Not even the first Clerks, which was an extremely low-budget indie that broke director Smith into the mainstream and brought sexually vulgar dialogue into the limelight. From what I can tell from watching Clerks II is that it takes place many years later. The original convenient store Dante (an uninspired Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (a more inspired Jeff Anderson) worked at has burned down and so they’ve gotten new jobs working at a fast food place called Mooby’s. This is the second to last place anyone would actually want to eat (the first place winner goes to Shenanigans from the disgusting movie “Waiting…”). The film takes place over one particular day.

I’m more disappointed in myself for not liking Clerks II than I am in the actual movie. The characters do things that would be funny if your friends were doing them, but because they’re people we don’t really know it’s just kind of so-so. The problem with Kevin Smith’s humor is that you feel like you’re not in on the joke. He makes his movies with his friends and it seems as if they’re all doing things they themselves think is funny, but to an outsider just seems bizarre. And there's something to the way his jokes are delievered that just seem rather off. (Besides, I enjoy Woody Allen movies, if that's any indication of how I felt about this movie)

Smith's characters are always on the in when it comes to pop culture. This has great potential to be funny for today's “nostalgia generation.” I enjoy characters who discuss popular culture. Take for instance the scene in which the guys discuss which trilogy is better: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. As Randal does his interpretation of the three “Rings” films, the audience roared with laughter as if it were their best friend performing the gag. I just kind of smiled. I liked it. I appreciated it but I didn’t fall down laughing.

O’Halloran, who plays Dante, seems to be acting as if he were on stage, which would be fine had this been a stage play. His body language, they way he speaks and moves his hands around. He seems to be over gesturing as if he’s performing to those who can’t really see him in the back row. Of course this is a movie about thirty something dudes that work in a fast-food place with four letter words being thrown up every millisecond so I can forgive the film for it’s lack of Oscar-caliber acting. The movie is silly and juvenile, like its characters, and it’s jokes always revolve around sexual dialogue and bathroom gags which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But look at The 40 Year Old Virgin for more inspired humor and better acting.

There is however plenty of things to like. Not only am I fond of characters who make fun of each other for liking or disliking certain movies, but those who know they’re actually in a movie. The best characters in the film (and I’m sure many would agree) are Kevin Smith regulars Jay (Jason Mewes) and his mute sidekick Silent Bob (Smith). They know they’re in a movie and we know that they know that they’re in a movie. They’re certainly the funniest and most interesting characters in the film. Jay’s tribute to Silence of the Lambs is worth the price of admission alone. I was also very pleased with Rosario Dawson’s performance as Becky. She seems like a fun person and a likable manager, laid back when it’s time to slack (which is often) yet tough and rigid when its time to mean business (like apologizing for her employee’s unintentional racist remarks towards customers) “Come back again soon!” she cries out apologetically! Like Wanda Sykes would ever step a foot inside that place again.

Kevin Smith fans will be very pleased, but it’s unlikely this new adventure will make any converts. I know what Smith is trying to accomplish and I found the film amusing. I can appreciate it without actually being crazy about it. GRADE: C+

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