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September 18, 2006 | by  | in Film |
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Clerks II

Kevin Smith is about as 90s as torn jeans, Kurt Cobain, and flannel shirts. Those three things however had the fortune to die, so they didn’t have to try and awkwardly stand themselves up against the current cultural climate. People can look back on them with fondness. They’re just part of a patchwork of nostalgia. I truly believe the 90s were an awful decade. Music died off into soulless electronica and Fred Durst’s fat-ass. Films were all epic posturing and bullshit action. At least the 80s had a kitsch quality. Kevin Smith films are still, to me, one of the highlights of the previous decade (and the slacker template he helped pioneer).Clerks, Chasing Amy and Mallrats have lost none of their enjoyment for me after repeat watchings. I will say this with trepidation of being taken down by some Smith zealot though: they’ve dated, boy have they dated.

And Smith has slid further into cheese. Clerks II is billed as a return to Smith-smut after the Affleck-schmaltz of Jersey Girl, but Clerks II is being treated overly well for bearing the Clerks name, just as Jersey Girl was slightly unjustly savaged for being associated with Ben Affleck at the height of his tabloid fuckwittery. Over time Smith has grown little as a director, and it shows. The last half of Smith’s pantheon have all suffered from gawd awful, labouring plots, but thankfully Smith has not lost his ability to write dialogue, which keeps him out of Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey territory and still in the ‘watchable’ range.

Clerks II hums along in places with some fantastic dialogue. Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall (Jeff Anderson) still pretty much sit around and talk, only this time they have a repressed-homosexual-slash- Christian orderly, and Rosario Dawson’s Becky to bounce off, as well as customers, and the now terrible Jay and Silent Bob (who are now one of the longest running, not funny anymore, one joke acts in cinema). They talk shit about Lord of the Rings, blogging, having sex. A guy fucks a goat. The set pieces, more often than not, come off.

But the plot doesn’t. Clerks II slides down to Jersey Girl levels in the plot, and even comes out as just a little more obvious. Dante is leaving town with the wrong girl, his buddy is bummed, he realises just intime… and it’s painfully inevitable. Clerks found its joy in the never-ending slacker monotony the characters revelled in and the realisation that in life there was no realisation. Clerks II is eminently watchable in parts, painfully unintelligent in others. It’s Clerks with a requisite Hollywood ending.

Overall, a pass – but when some of Smith’s earlier works are considered, why should we sit back and accept a bare pass? Even when Smith misses, it’s still obvious what a hit he could be. Smith’s initial audience grew up. They won’t accept barely updated fare nearly ten years on. I don’t think Smith’s grown-up audience will keep accepting Smith on autopilot, and I can’t see him finding new audiences as the Brat- Pack (Ferrell et al.) continue to dominate comedy.

The game has changed. But can Smith?

DIRECTED BY KEVIN SMITH
Reading, Empire, Embassy Cinemas

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About the Author ()

James Robinson is a university dropout turned journalist who likes to pretend he has an honours degree. Turn ons include soup, scarfs, a hot bath and some FM-smooth Kenny G-esque instrumental jazz. Turn offs include student politicians, the homeless, and people who pronounce it supposebly.

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