Sunday, September 10, 2006

Clerks II

I was going to be so cutting-edge: Saw this the first show on the first day but then it took nearly two months to post this. Guess the film really does destroy life.


Clerks II (Kevin Smith 2006)

Holy cow, what a disaster. Smith has never been much for smarts or even technical skill but his knack for dialogue, improbable pop-culture surprise and plain old humor has completely deserted him. Clerks II wanders through a heavy-handed sitcom plot and laborious presentation of “characters” before finally hammering in a Message that any viewer got about three minutes into the film. “Friends are kool” and “follow your dreams” are not negligible but having read that you can now safely skip the film.

It probably didn’t help that in preparation for the sequel I watched Clerks a few days earlier. I hadn’t seen it since the original release and it turned out to be better and worse than I remembered. "Better" because as pure filmmaking it was more accomplished and efficient than the clunky indie film of my memory. What I probably considered clumsy acting at the time is actually an appropriate style for geeks who constantly talk and talk then talk some more. "Worse" because it’s so unambiguously weighted toward a moment of Personal Growth that there’s little real drama. What else could you say about a film that has its actual director deliver the moral on screen in his character’s only line of dialogue? And worse also because of the unadulterated misogyny shown towards the “bad girl” that Dante learns to reject. I have no use for pop psychology’s mother/whore idea but Smith seems to have embraced it so completely that it’s not clear why he even bothered to give these two female characters other names.

In some sense, Clerks II is practically just a remake with Dante again torn between a woman everybody knows is bad for him and one that everybody knows is right for him, random events with customers, toenail painting, pointless Jay & Silent Bob, etc. But anybody who’s ever worked retail knows how honest the first film was; the sequel has no ties to any reality, even a comic fantasy reality. It just feels like the cheapest kind of barrel-bottom comedy, the kind of thing that used to fill late-night cable slots like Hot Dog: The Movie and its ilk. The Star Wars dialogue in the first film about workers who died on the Death Star is exactly what you hear from geeks and it wasn’t self-contained but flowed into a customer’s dialogue and on from there so that it tied into the overall weave of the movie. It was interesting in itself and a part of the film both thematically (workers) and structurally. The sequel’s Star Wars vs LOTR is only a mainstream’s idea of geeks, pure cliche. Sure you could say the same about The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy but all of us fanboys know that there’s some truth to CBG and that the show’s creators clearly like and respect him. Smith is just filling time. Even Jason Mewes delivers only a pale shadow of Jay, helping make the whole film just a sad sad time.