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Clerks II

Year: 2006
Production Co: View Askew
Director: Kevin Smith
Producer: Scott Mosier
Writer: Kevin Smith
Cast: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, Jennifer Schwalbach, Wanda Sykes
Either age or the coddled confines of the studio have taken Kevin Smith's edge off.

Sure, he was always about comedy and that's not particular edgy in itself, but he was one of the 1990s movie brats, grabbing a camera and shooting himself and his friends and taking it all the way to Hollywood, blazing his own trail the way his heroes like Altman, Scorsese and Lucas had 20 years earlier.

Along with Blair Witch and a handful of others, Clerks was the self-funded indie film that launched a movement, finally putting all of us - the geeks who loved the movies - in the frame.

Maybe because it was something new, or maybe because it did have an indie cred despite the puerile fixations on everything sexual, but Clerks seemed better.

Too much in Clerks II seems self conscious, of slack guys who've gotten fat off studio paycheques and can't quite manage the same hunger (Smith, not the cast). The easy dialogue I remember from the original is still there but it feels a little forced now, a little too much like it wants you to feel a certain way (a hallmark of studio product).

Despite Clerks being all about this breezy, shoot-the-shit dialogue between real people rather than superheros, military generals or aliens we're used to from most films, The 40 Year Old Virgin actually did it much better.

And there's still the same old fixation on everything sexual, including the ATM argument where Dante (O'Halloran) declares just a little too eagerly that it's something you just don't do (see above).

The whole Clerks world feels more like slapstick than a film with something to say (even something as inane as 'watch out for the people who serve you'). You can feel it in most of Randal's (Anderson) lines. He becomes very much the funny guy to Dante's straight man, and as such it feels like the 'official' comic relief of Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) are somewhat sidelined.

It's ten years on in Dante and Randal's lives, and they're still clerks. Randal's happy enough slacking off at their new workplace - burger joint Mooby's - forever, but Dante's become increasingly nervous at a life apparently going nowhere, so we meet the guys the day before he's leaving for Miami to marry a woman who's clearly wrong for him (Scwalbach, Smith real-life wife) and get a job that will enslave him to old-money in-laws.

It's a day of soul searching, friendship, love, and a guy fucking a donkey for Dante's going away party.

Once again like a studio movie, it finishes on an emotional climax and so has a distinct character arc, where the original eschewed such conventions, content to be just a snapshot in the life of two losers.

The magic is gone, but it's still worth seeing.

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