Friday, June 13, 2008

Clerks II

First, let me just say that I am actually a fan of Kevin Smith. I've seen all his movies. I own all his movies (Jersey Girl being the only exception). I know all about the ViewAskewniverse. So that's why it breaks my heart to give Clerks II, ahem, II thumbs down.
The film does approach some issues like ambitions and/or lack thereof, much like Clerks did. But Smith has pretty much replaced the spiteful sarcastic clerks we love, with perverted mockeries of them. It's like watching a film where all the characters are Jay, except for Jay – he's found Jesus.
The film begins during the original Clerks era. Dante and Randall leave the Quick-Stop to work at Mooby's restaurant, a Dogma reference (Love it!). Fast-forward to present day and Dante and Randall are still working at Mooby's. Where sharp-tongued criticism and annoying customers should be, only slightly amusing banter and disgusting jokes remain. One of the most disgusting things I have witnessed in a film appears in this very film. I'll devote an entire paragraph to that later.
The entire Clerks culture has changed in Clerks II. I think that Smith has lost touch with his original point: to make a funny movie based on truth. Rather than sit down and try to write intelligent criticism of small-town America like before, he has traded in his pen for a mad-libs book. (I suppose you still need a pen for mad-libs, but you get my point.) Take a plot we've seen hundreds of times, and insert a few names and dirty words.
The story of Clerks II is nice, but nothing new. Dante is getting married to Emma (played by a talent-less Mrs. Kevin Smith). But does he really love someone else? You got drama! The interesting thing is Randall's concern for his best friend. Even though Randall is fouler here than in the original, he also shows a little more heart. That was nice. I enjoyed that.
But now let me tell you what I did not enjoy.
Although there were some humorous moments, like the Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings discussion, all the other bits were cheap and so over the top that they weren't funny. Was I really supposed to laugh each time a character said, "Ass to mouth?" There were dirty jokes in the original Clerks, sure, but they were quick and not as forced as they so obviously were here.
Speaking of dirty jokes taken way too far, let's discuss the donkey-sex. Did I miss the humor here? A man has sex with a donkey in a scene that lasts about 20 minutes. I recall something like this happening in the movie Bachelor Party, only it was implied, and the humor was how absurd the bachelor party could get. Obviously, the donkey-sex is simulated in Clerks II, but we are forced to see the facial expressions of the leather-clad donkey-rapist and hear pretty much everything. Not much is left to the imagination, and that's something I never wanted to imagine in the first place. The scene actually scared me. Is rape funny? Is animal abuse funny? It isn't funny; it's disgusting and wrong. Smith is better than this; he's smarter. He shouldn't be resorting to such cheap gross-out humor.
Smith has also left out something I'm surprised more of his fans aren't upset about. Even though this is a direct sequel, rarely is there a connection to his other films. The thing I enjoy most about Kevin Smith is his use of the View Askewniverse. The Askewniverse, named after his production company, is the universe that his stories live in. There are reoccurring characters, themes, and jokes, all centered in New Jersey. Each film references past, and even future films. It's a work of genius as far as I'm concerned. But since Clerks II barely makes a connection to the other films, I have a hard time considering this part of the View Askewniverse. Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, and Ben Affleck all appear in this movie, but they don't play the characters they played before. I ask, why not? That would have made me laugh, at least three times.
There isn't even one comic book reference! Blasphemy!
Clerks II is pretty disappointing. If you are a fan of Clerks, don't expect to find the same cynicism and intelligence here; there isn't any. If you are a fan of donkey-rape, then maybe this movie is for you. Let's hope the Clerks Animated Movie is better.

1 sad little Mooby

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