Clerks III is only going to have the heaviest impact for the hardcore Kevin Smith fans who have been there since Clerks 1.
Published on September 15, 2022
Rating 2.5 /5
Kevin Smith was once an independent filmmaker who redefined Gen-X meandering comedies with pitch-perfect comedy in the pop culture banter and low-brow ambitions amid its black-and-white contrast. One could certainly feel there was something more to that film, showcasing an emptiness of capitalism in the wage-slave wasteland of retail. Now we have Clerks III, a film that literally points this out and presents it as being clever for coming from the mostly empty mouth of Silent Bob.
The enjoyment of Clerks III ultimately comes down to how much affinity one has for both Smith and his Clerks characters. If you’ve grown with them, there is no doubt going to be some sentimental love for watching them receive a conclusion to their New Jersey tale. Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson reprise their roles as Dante and Randal respectively. They’re back at the Quick-Stop convenient store, but have now bought and run their own business, having the ultimate say in when they arrive at work and when they can hold impromptu hockey games during store hours. So what’s left for them to worry about? Well, they are middle-aged men now. So…heart attacks?
Randal, having had a diet of fast-food and convenience store items for decades, has just experienced a heart attack. After surgery with an overacting Justin Long and restrained Amy Sedaris, Randal’s existential crisis leads to him taking action and making a movie about his own life. So, yeah, we get a Clerks movie all about reenacting the first Clerks movie with the same actors and everything. It would seem like this is a golden opportunity to play around with the material and exaggerate previous events. Sadly, this picture mostly functions as Smith’s personal nostalgia trip, where we’re essentially getting a Clerks reunion type of production.
There are still a few lingering aspects of the Clerks vibe present. The highlight of the original film was that the characters would argue about pop culture topics, from the plumbing of the Death Star to the mechanics of pornography. It almost feels like Clerks has gone so corporate it has to soften the rather blunt commentary that Randal was usually known for. We do get him bantering about his favorite franchise, Star Wars, in how he tries to assign equatable roles to those in his life. It’s kinda funny that Randal views Dante as Luke’s unfortunate co-pilot Dak and rubs salt in the wound by bringing up how Dak wasn’t in the original Kenner line of Star Wars toys. Thankfully, this line ties into a more touching tribute towards the end of the picture.
Here’s the weird thing about Clerks III: It is simultaneously the most mature and least funny of the three films. On the positive side, we get to see a more emotional side of these characters. Randal’s midlife crisis feels real and Dante’s dealing with loss feels more genuine than it was bewildering in previous movies. I must admit that it was pleasing to see this type of unexpected conclusion. On the negative side, we don’t get as many punchy or quotable jokes as in past films. What we get are mere reprisals, turning most of the characters into joke machines to reiterate their previous quirks.
Just look at Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). Both of them are back with a more knowing nature but standard weed jokes. The funniest bits involve them speaking earnestly about film production and taking the medium a bit too seriously. The least funny bits are when they’re smoking weed, mostly because the act itself has become far less rebellious and subversive. It’s very telling that one scene features Jay trying to reenact a street deal right outside his own store for legal substances, trying to stress to the Gen-Z customer, “That’s how we did it back in the day, son!”
The most unique character for most of the film is Elias (Trevor Fehrman), returning from Clerks II. He reverts from Christianity to become a Satanist and this leads to a lot of wild costume changes in nearly every scene. It’s a cute running bit that honestly kept me watching just to see what outfit and makeup he would do next. Sadly, his arc becomes less intriguing as it involves cryptocurrency that ultimately becomes the deus ex machina which ties up loose ends in the finale.
Clerks III is only going to have the heaviest impact for the hardcore Kevin Smith fans who have been there since Clerks 1. If you love all his films and follow all the in-jokes, you’ll certainly love this movie for both the greatest hits renditions and the heartfelt farewell given to this world. If you’re not big into Kevin Smith or only had a passing interest in his humor, it’s unlikely you’ll feel that much when there’s a tearful admittance from one character of “You’re not even supposed to be here today.” The final result is a film that has more heart than humor but left me wishing there was a tad more of both.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.