He’s not supposed to be here today! In February 2018, Kevin Smith miraculously survived a fatal “widow maker” heart attack. With a new lease on life Smith dropped the “fat man” persona he always held but kept on trucking with his podcast empire and continued string of directing niche B-movies. After dipping his feet back into the View Askew Universe with 2019’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, Smith now makes one last trip to the well revisiting the characters and franchise that launched his career in Clerks III. Does the trilogy end on a high note? Let’s discuss!
The Passion of the Clerks
A brief background; Kevin Smith was my idol filmmaker growing up. I had a deep obsession with him and his work as a teenager and he was the reason I wanted to be a filmmaker myself and go to film school. I still adore him as an entertainer, he’s a pioneer of podcasting, and he literally invented the cinematic universe. That being said, the last film of his I’ve enjoyed was Zack and Miri Make a Porno back in 2008. So when I heard he was going back to the Clerks franchise I was frankly scared of what that would look like. The results are a mix of the new and old school Kevin Smith, with varying degrees of success.
Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson return as Dante Hicks and Randal Graves, jumping right back into their characters with ease. Jeff Anderson has always been the secret sauce of this franchise and it never ceases to amaze me how someone who is not a professional actor can play such a difficult character AND make it seem so easy. Brian O’Halloran has stayed in the acting world since the Clerks films, but Dante is what he’ll always be known as. In this film he has more to do than ever before, getting to flex some serious dramatic chops. Along with them, every living cast member from Clerks is back, the standouts from Clerks II, many quick celebrity cameos, and all of Smith’s friends and family.
At the conclusion of Clerks II, Dante and Randal had purchased the Quick Stop as Dante awaited the birth of his first child with Becky (Rosario Dawson), the newfound love of his life. We faded back to black and white and it was truly beautiful. While Clerks II was a tour de force in comedy (filled with cancellable offenses to today’s standards), Clerks III is a very somber, reflective, and harrowing tale of love, loss, morality, and a life worth living.
The main plot revolves around Randal surviving a heart attack, the same one Kevin Smith himself had. Escaping the jaws of death Randal comes to the realization that he’s spent his entire life dicking around at a cash register and talking shit. Dante tries to be supportive to lift his spirits up when Randal has an epiphany that he needs to make a film based on his own life, that film of course being Clerks. THE Clerks that we have seen, the one that this film is a sequel to. META!
I don’t typically reveal spoilers for anything outside of trailers and marketing in my reviews but I have to make an exception. That being said, you learn this information 45 seconds into the film so judge if you’d like if it constitutes a spoiler, but it’s something I had no idea about going into it.
SPOILER WARNING…………….BECKY IS DEAD!!!! My heart, our beloved Rosario Dawson who stole our hearts in Clerks II is no more. You learn quickly in the film that Becky, along with her and Dante’s unborn child, were tragically killed by a drunk driver shortly after the conclusion of Clerks II. With this, our boy Dante is right back to square one where he’s been for 30 years, only now he’s haunted figuratively and literally by the life that should have been.
There’s a stunning amount of heft with both Dante and Randal’s stories, together and separate. Randal comes to grips with a life wasted and almost lost, while Dante grapples with a life lost as he wastes away. What will the stresses of making a movie together on top of all this cause? Especially with the dynamics of their friendship reaching a boiling point.
While there is a lot of heavy stuff in this film, it IS a Clerks movie, so this is still primarily a comedy. Unfortunately the comedy aspect is where the film falls apart. You get the genre references and debates you expect, but that style has really lost its touch. It’s sad that after allegedly watching every movie ever released, Randal is still only able to talk about Star Wars and He-Man on a daily basis.
Trevor Fehrman was a standout as Elias in Clerks II, the pure Christian boy who loves Lord or the Rings and Jesus, which worked like gangbusters when Elias was a teenager. As an adult man failing the same way as Dante and Randal did, the joke doesn’t carry the weight. I found Elias to be too cartoonish even for the View Askew Universe. Unfortunately most of the big comedic turns are given to Elias in the script.
Jay and Silent Bob are of course here again, but having just starred in their own film, they take much more of a back seat in this one. They’ve purchased the old RST Video Store next to Quick Stop and converted it into a marijuana dispensary. Despite having their own proprietary business, they still choose to stand out front and make their deals, which is a good bit. We of course also get to see them film their iconic scenes from the original film.
Unlike Clerks II, Clerks III is entirely reliant on your knowledge and nostalgia of the previous 2 films. So this is definitely not something for a first timer or non-fan to watch. Although I didn’t think the jokes worked, I still found myself connecting with the heart and deep themes explored in the movie. I was really worried for how it would turn out, I didn’t love it, but it’s much better than I expected. Watching these permanent man children I’ve grown up with finally come to grips with it all felt like something worth experiencing.
I give Clerks III 6.5 Star Wars references out of 10.