PLOT: After a near fatal heart attack, Randal convinces his convenient shop partner Dante to help him make a movie about his life working at the Quick Stop.
REVIEW: Back in 1994, Kevin Smith‘s indie classic, Clerks, became the unsung hero of those working behind the counter and in customer service. It also inspired many young filmmakers to make movies of their own. I became an instant fan of the hockey jersey-wearing Smith, as well as his on-screen persona of “Silent Bob.” And yes, I’ve appreciated much of what he brought to his later features. Still I was weary about Clerks III. Dante, Randal, Jay, and his wordless sidekick, Bob. How do you continue with the dick and fart jokes when all the original actors are well into middle age? It certainly doesn’t hurt to borrow from real-life adulthood fears.
Nearly thirty years after we first met Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), only minor changes have occurred in their lives. They now own the Quick Stop Groceries, and apparently, Jay and Silent Bob have taken over the video store, now a dispensary. Unfortunately for Dante, he’s suffered a significant loss in his life. Then when Randal lands in the hospital after a heart attack – the horrific widow-maker – he questions his position in life. As an avid movie watcher, why not make a movie of his own and tell the story of working at Quick Stop? Thus, Randal, with their old friends, begins production on an ultra low-budget movie about Clerks. It is super meta, and the nostalgia factor is in full effect. It’s also super funny. Yet shockingly, Clerks III is also kind of heartbreaking.
It didn’t take long for me to embrace Clerks III. When a crude comedy opens with the operatic pop-punk anthem “The Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance, it’s instantly reminiscent of the killer soundtrack to the original film. And frankly, it was nice to see both O’Halloran and Anderson immediately bring their early bromance relationship back naturally. One treat is that you’ll be seeing many of the original cast members return. Randal is essentially making Clerks. Even Clerks II is mentioned, most notably with the inclusion of Rosario Dawson, who is a delight here. Many favorite moments are revised here, but by telling it as essentially a movie production, it adds a level of charm to Randal’s latest project.
The best thing about this sequel is something that shocked me. It broke my heart. It’s no secret that Mr. Smith went through the very thing Randal did. And frankly, it’s safe to say that if you’ve grown up with the Clerks universe, you’ve probably faced a harrowing life experience or two as well. Clerks III embraces the darker side of aging and the struggle of dealing with losing a loved one. There is honesty here. Smith has always been open about his battle and his return to health. Bringing that story to characters many have loved gives a personal touch to this story. The last act is perhaps one of the most mature and profound moments in the director’s career. Strange to say for a Clerks flick, but bring tissues.
Another delight from the new flick is the entertaining cameos. You have everyone from Sarah Michelle Gellar, the Impractical Jokers, Justin Long, Ben Affleck, Fred Armisen, and more. While the Clerks-verse has grown and featured many of these before, the inclusion here felt natural and hilarious. If you’ve uttered the line, “I’m not even supposed to be here today.” you’ll get it. More importantly, the regulars are all in fine form. Smith and Jason Mewes are still a blast. Dawson is luminous and wonderfully natural. And Marilyn Ghigliotti is terrific returning to the role of Veronica. And while Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson aren’t known for deeply emotional moments in these flicks, it’s nice to see these characters grow a little.
As a fan of Clerks, I expected to have a fun time. Thankfully, I got a movie loaded with laughs, and one that dealt with the finality of loss in an emotionally impactful way. Kevin Smith’s sequel is honest, hilarious, and it’s a joyful trip down memory lane. Similarly to this year’s Top Gun: Maverick, Clerks III is a loving tribute to what came before. In many ways, his latest hit me as much as my personal Smith favorite, Chasing Amy. With an upcoming tour and release for the new film, I highly recommend any Kevin Smith fan to see this one with a crowd. It’s riotous, charming, silly, and, more importantly, it breaks your heart. Who knew, nearly thirty years later, I’d still be happy to welcome Dante and Randal back into my life with open arms? If you are a fan, you are in for a damn treat.
Lionsgate in partnership with Fathom Events will be releasing Clerks III exclusively in theaters on September 13th and 15th.