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Clerks III

Year: 2022
Production Co: View Askew Productions
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Cast: Brian Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Amy Seders, Justin Long, Rosario Dawson

I'm not sure if Kevin Smith's movies have devolved in quality or if it's just the subject matter he chooses that reveals flaws in some more than others. Red State was taut and very effective. Tusk was an ambitious idea but it was hobbled by his worst tendencies, ones that have shown up in every movie he's made since.

The first of those tendencies is that it feels like he throws every idea he has into the script, and the second is that he insists on finding – sometimes forcing – roles for friends and family members, many of whom frankly can't act.

The original Clerks happened too long ago for me to remember but in Clerks II Brian Halloran and Jeff Anderson suffer both from clangers in the script as well as their own lack of chops, and the result is that nothing on the screen feels true or authentic. It's simply pantomime for the sake of delivering (mostly poor) jokes.

Taking cues from Smith's own life and career, Dante (Halloran) and Randall (Anderson) are still working at the New Jersey convenience store after decades, eternal slackers arguing over pop culture and doing very little with their lives.

One day, while discussing religion with coworker and kind-of friend, evangelical Christian Elias, Randall has sudden difficulty breathing. Dante insists on him going to hospital and they explain that he's having the same heart attack Smith famously suffered a few years ago.

When he recovers, Randall laments not having done anything with his life and declares to everyone that he's going to make a movie about the daily life of the Quick Stop and the people who work there.

One of the movie devices Smith loves is going meta, and you can't go much more meta than making a movie about two convenience store clerks making a movie about working in a convenience store that's a second sequel to a movie about two clerks working in a convenience store.

They rope everyone they know in to the effort, from Veronica, Dante's girlfriend from years back (and the original actress who played the part for Smith back in 1994), to weed dealers Jay and Silent Bob, played once again by Jason Mewes and Smith himself.

The main plot of the film deals with Randall trying to make his movie despite an obvious lack of resources, preparedness and talent, but it's also Smith's excuse to call back to as many motifs, characters, and ideas from the ret of the View Askewniverse as he can. You can almost hear him writing lists of ideas he considers cool and funny and retconning the structure to accommodate them as you watch it.

He gets heartfelt and even decidedly (and unexpectedly) dark a few times, but in something this silly, none of it feels earned. It has the 'charm' (I use the term advisedly for something this profane and shlubby) of the rest of the series and all the related movies, but Smith doesn't have any finesse or subtlety, both in what works versus what stands out like a sore thumb, in the premise heavily borrowed from his own life and the existence of the movie itself.

It's probably easier to accept and love if you're a devoted fan of his, but otherwise the most you can hope for is a few wry chuckles.

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