Friday, December 01, 2006

Box Office Poison reviews Kevin Smith's Clerks II (on DVD): "I ASSURE YOU, WE'RE RE-OPEN!"

I came of age in college when the original comedy classic by Kevin Smith, Clerks, was first released way back in 1994.

Clerks was an unrefined instant cult-comedy classic that put Smith on the map as a voice for a new generation (X). In addition to that, Clerks re-invented the comedy wheel, something sorely needed after Bill Murray went soft, John Belushi went to that "big frat house in the sky," Chevy Chase fell into a chasm of career oblivion, Steve Martin sold-out (repeatedly), and Eddie Murphy went all "Daddy Day Care" on us.

But, with the exception of Groundhog Day, Office Space and Swingers, the age of comedies died back in the 1980's - that is, until Kevin Smith and Clerks came along to tell the story of two disgruntled "convenience" store employees, Dante Hicks and Randal Graves.

Sorry, Adam Sandler fans, but Sandler's sorry, watered-down, rip-offs of earlier classics left my funny bone - and brain stem - numb. I got my comedy Ph.D. watching the early days of Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live - and I haven't looked back since (And, like most Ph.D.'s, I'm not qualified to work at Starbucks ...where's the justice-?!?).

But along comes Clerks II - a movie that Kevin Smith half-heartedly smirkingly claims he made because he needed to pay his mortgage. And when we first revisit Dante and Randal in this sequel of sorts, "the Quikstop" has burned down and these two engaging "losers" are forced to take jobs as fast-food workers at a place called "Mooby's" in order to keep their awkward existence, the present-day pop culture references - and this sequel - "moving along."

Now, with Dante and Randal in their 30's, the two main characters are forced to fight the future in the face of new technology, bloggers, and Peter Jackson battling George Lucas for dominance in their self-aware universe.

To be honest, at first glance, Clerks II appears to be the next biggest blunder since Caddyshack II - but, upon further review, nothing could be farther from the truth with this film.

"I'd do it for you, would you do it for me-? We will always be busy, making misery. We could build a factory and make misery. We'll create the cure, we made the disease. Frustrated, incorporated..."

Kevin Smith and his characters are still blunt, raunchy, and rough around the edges - but there comes a certain freedom within this framework. True change can never arrive by riding the fence of mediocrity and being politically correct (all the time). Sometimes, in everyone's life, eyes need to be opened with a cold crowbar rather than kind Hallmark words - and this is where Clerks II truly delivers on every level.

When Dante prepares to "pack up" with his fiancee and flee to Florida in hopes of a "brighter future," fellow New Jersey native, Randal, steps up to the plate to ponder this fun fact: "You hate this stupid town hate the stupid people in this stupid town what, after all these years, are you still doing here-?"

And this is where Kevin Smith plays his A-game. Instead of pandering to all his slacker fans still living a disgruntled life in the basement with their parents, Smith forces a satisfying "adult" resolution to the conflict in the lives of his cinematic characters - without completely "selling out."

Betty Crocker and her brownies are dead and gone. "Happily ever after" went out of fashion with The Wizard of Oz. Dysfunctional hybrid families are - for better or worse - the wave of the future. And that's the constant pop conclusion for all the "Clerk kids" who grew up in my generation.

When Randal questions Dante about his future about being a convenience store employee, it ignites a spark of debate that changes both of their lives - and this is where Kevin Smith regains his throne as the king of contemporary culture.

RANDAL: "Ten years ago, you said to shit or get off the pot-!"

DANTE: "YOU said that!"

RANDAL: "And you got all fired up, about changing your life and shit, and ten years later, you were still working as a convenience store clerk - until it burned down."

DANTE: "Hey, I took courses at Brookdale!"

RANDAL: "And then you dropped out!"

DANTE: "At least I was trying to do something with my life!"

RANDAL: "We were taking courses in Criminology. What the fuck were we training to be-? Fucking Batman or something-?!?"

And this is where Kevin Smith shines as a storyteller with Clerks II. Life is not about being a sheep who follows the herd to live a life that everyone else thinks you should lead. It's not even about "doing something." It's about doing what you LOVE - and doing it with the people you love doing it with... no matter what anybody else thinks matter what the consequences.

Sometimes, in life, it's not all about what you want ...sometimes it's about what you don't want (or, more importantly, something inbetween - Yin and Yang).

Kevin Smith had lost his way with his movies over the years (sad to say). But, with Clerks II, Smith has regained a Zen-like piece of "the magic" that made his original work-of-art so great in the beginning.

"The Transformers," gay hobbit jokes, The Silence of the Lambs satire, Rosario Dawson, a pitch-perfect soundtrack, a donkey show to end all donkey shows, and "One ring to rule them all..."

Clerks begins with black-and-white beauty. Clerks II evolves into muddy colorful confusion - and finally resolves into it's original light and dark areas of clarity (Much like The Wizard of Oz ...anybody?).

Kevin Smith could have "shit or get off the pot" with Clerks II. He got off the pot. Here's hoping we can all go out and do likewise.

"You see everything. You see every part. You see all my light ...and you love my dark. You dig everything, of which I'm ashamed. There's not anything to which you can’t relate. And you’re still here..."


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