Thirteen years ago, indie director Kevin Smith made a sequel to the film that started it all for him. Clerks II revisited Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), who were still stuck in dead-end jobs, but also added some entertaining new characters, explored new depths to Randal’s character and actually had some shots that didn’t just centre whoever happened to be talking in the middle of the freaking frame.
So even though the first of Smith’s films to feature Jay and Silent Bob at the centre of their own story—Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back—was arguably not one of his best films, there was some hope for the sequel or reboot or whatever the hell we’re calling this thing.
The problem is that though Smith marks off boxes on his sequel checklist—get the gang back together, hire some younger cast members, throw in some cameos, tug at some heartstrings and introduce character development for the guy who’s so far had little to none—it all falls a little flat this time around.
The movie is essentially built on a series of in-jokes featuring almost everyone Smith has ever cast in one of his flicks (RIP Carlin and Fisher), but if you’re not up on your View Askewniverse, or even just the life and times of Kevin Smith, jokes can crumble on impact. There’s also just one too many sections of the film that feel slow and not all that funny (I’m lookin’ at you Bluntman v Chronic clip), which is a downer considering how tight Smith kept Clerks II.
As for the pathos of the film, it too doesn’t quite work out. A lot of the more emotional scenes involve Jay (Jason Mewes) and Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn Smith (playing Milly), and if you’re as familiar with Smith’s world as you pretty much have to be to understand anything in this film, then it’s really hard not to see a dude acting alongside a young woman who is essentially his niece, and nothing either one of them does pulls you so far into the film that you forget about that. Which is sort of funny when Smith the younger is going off about what she’d like to be allowed to do to Chris Hemsworth, but doesn’t help the film’s emotional punches land.
We’re also back to centering whoever the hell happens to be talking in the middle of the freaking frame.
All that being said, if you want to smoke up, get nostalgic and gawk at how everyone in the View Askewniverse has aged so much in the past 13 to 25 years, then there are enough fun moments peppered throughout to make it worth a watch.
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