Twelve years is a long time to wait for a sequel. So long in fact, that it’s easy to forget what an era-defining, indie eye-popper Clerks was. Shot in moody monochrome for just $27,000 and pocket change, its stupid-simple concept – slackers shooting the breeze instead of working their McJobs – distilled the pop-culture-but-no-future essence of Generations X, Y and Z. It was smart, it was scabrous, and it had a chick screwing a dead guy in a convenience store bathroom.
Clerks II, then: same shit, different movie, with Dante and Randal still in New Jersey and still cashing paychecks from McJobs (the burnt down QuickStop being replaced by Formica burger joint Mooby’s). However, this time around it doesn’t so much define an era as mark its passing, as slacker slouching gives way to thirtysomething responsibilities like marriage, mortgages and making babies. Oh, and it’s shot in colour, not black and white, and doesn’t have any necrophilia.
But it is funny. Hilariously, hernia-inducingly funny. We’re talking so funny you’d rather pee in your Sprite than miss anything by going to the bathroom. So funny you’ll choke on your own guffaws, then take a slurp from the drink you just leaked in. That is, of course, as long as you’re not offended by the racial slur “porch monkey” (“It’s being reclaimed!”) or the sight of an overweight swinger playing Donkey Kong with a real, live ass of the four-legged variety (“inter-species erotica”, apparently).
But for all the (extreme) crudity, it’s also surprisingly touching. Smith has finally found the balance between so coarse your-mother-wouldn’t-like-it humour and sloppy sentiment that he’s been searching for since, like, forever. Riffs on the scariness of oversized clitorises (“It’s so big it’s almost like a little cock; the next stop is a guy with an oversized cock”) cosy up next to a tender romance between Dante and Mooby’s manager Becky (Rosario Dawson, who’s the beating heart of the movie). Then there’s the revenge of the nerd: more movie references than Halliwell’s Film Guide, not to mention frantic fan fights between Randal and virgin Jesus-freak co-worker Elias (Trevor Fehrman, a comic talent to watch) in which GoBots vs Transformers and Star Wars vs The Lord Of The Rings are brilliantly sorted out (Randal: “All those Rings movies were just three hours of people walking. Even the trees walked!”).
From Mallrats to Jersey Girl, Smith has proved an uneven and sometimes frustrating filmmaker (even for his fans). How ironic that after vowing never to return, he’s finally found his stride by going back to the genesis of his “View Askewniverse”. Question is what will he do for an encore? Clerks III please, Kev.