Clerks II

As surprising as it sounds, it has been twelve years since Kevin Smith introduced the world to Jay and Silent Bob, his slacker duo that stood outside a convenience store in New Jersey, in ClerksClerks was a fantastic film.  In addition to introducing the world to Smith, it was a raucously funny and profane movie made on a shoestring budget.  Clerks also helped cement Miramax's position as a place that shepherded independent film.  In the meantime, Smith has written and directed Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Jersey Girl.  All of his films take place in New Jersey, and most feature reams and reams of dialogue, pop-culture references, and a gleefully obscene sense of humor.

So how are things going for Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Dogma) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson, Rennie's Landing, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back)?  Well, they are exactly where they were over a decade ago.  The beginning of Clerks II finds their convenience store burning down, leaving them with the question of what to do next.  They have few friends, not much money, and no prospects.  Then, Smith jumps forward a year.  Hicks and Graves are now working at Mooby's, where, like before, they barely work and instead insult pretty much everything in sight, including themselves.  However, Hicks is now engaged to Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Jersey Girl, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), and is getting ready to move to Florida where he will help his with his father-in-law's car wash business.

Hicks is happy, or at least thinks he is.  Graves is extremely annoyed, which causes him to act more caustic than usual.  The idea to jump forward a year was not that great.  It would have been more interesting to see how the two slackers acclimated to their new environment, especially with their supervisor Becky (Rosario Dawson, Rent, Sin City), and their geeky, Lord of the Rings loving coworker Elias (Trevor Fehrman, Cheaters).  Instead, Smith thrusts viewers into the midst of Hicks' mid-life crisis.  It is good to see his characters slowly maturing (in the case of Graves, ever so slowly maturing), but the manner in which this happened feels a bit contrived.

Even stranger is the tone of the film.  While there are plenty of things to shock jaded viewers, everything feels a bit, well, quaint.  The edge is gone.  Even during long discussions of the acceptability of A2M (don't ask) and a running gag about bestiality with a donkey never feel that obscene.  For some reason, the dialogue feels a bit stilted and unnatural coming from O'Halloran, Anderson, and Dawson. The word and concepts are funny, but it doesn't feel believable coming out of their mouths.  There is a weird, awkward, stilted feeling that permeates the Clerks II.  All the elements are in place.  Jay (Jason Mewes, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Scream 3) and Silent Bob (Smith) are back, as are the parade of cameos, but some feels off.  Things don't feel stale, and Fehrman is a nice addition to the group of weirdos, but Clerks II just doesn't have the zing that the original did.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated R for pervasive sexual and crude content including abberant sexuality, strong language, and some drug material.

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