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Clerks II

Review Written by: Will Penley
Film: A+
What the MPAA Rating should be: R (for non-stop profanity and sexual content)

Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith
Produced by: Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Rosario Dawson, Jason Mewes, Jennifer Schwalbach
Studio: The Weinstein Company

Kevin Smith has come a long way since 1994 when he provided the world with the indie hit Clerks. Within those twelve years, he's created quite a following for himself by making several other films, doing radio gigs and television appearances, writing columns in magazines and on the internet and regularly posting at his online message board. Now in his 30's, he's decided to go back to the well with Clerks II, a funny and poignant film that finds Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) also in their 30's and still working at dead-end jobs.

After many long years of annoying customers and stolen cigarettes, the Quick Stop has burned down and everyone's favorite clerks have moved on to a new venue. The place in question is Mooby's, the fast food palace introduced in Dogma. As with the original, Clerks II takes place over the course of a single day. Dante and Randal have been working at Mooby's for about a year now and the former is still sick of the minimum-wage hell he's stuck in. However, he's found a way out in his fiancée Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), a pampered daddy's girl who intends to drag him away from Jersey the next day.

Randal, on the other hand, has grown even more bitter and cynical over the past year. He still spends his work hours not working and now he's stooped to picking on co-worker Elias (Trevor Fehrman) a young Christian who has three passions in life: The Transformers, The Lord of the Rings and Jesus. Randal sees his world falling apart when Dante leaves and he can't stand the thought of being stuck with Elias for the rest of his life. However, he chooses to go on with his day and keep these feelings to himself. At least, for as long as he can.

Another newcomer is Becky (Rosario Dawson) the manager of Mooby's who has a very close relationship with Dante. She doesn't want him to leave either and it's very interesting to watch how she deals with the situation. Of course, Clerks II wouldn't be Clerks II without everyone's favorite drug dealers, Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith). This time around, they've finally been to rehab and cleaned up, but they still sell drugs to keep the money coming. In their first scene, Jay tells the story of their lifestyle change to a couple of "clients" and it's a story that practically mirrors what Jason Mewes himself went through. This is especially fitting because, as most people know, Smith made Clerks II partly because of a promise he made to Mewes some time back. (Smith's full account of Jason's battle with drugs can be read on his blog.)

Clerks II is the best and funniest comedy I've seen this year. In fact, it's also the best film of any kind that I've seen this year. Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson slip perfectly back into the roles that started their careers. Anderson's performance...wow, it's a thing of beauty. It's hard to believe that someone could make you laugh hysterically in one scene and make you cry in another. If he doesn't get any awards for his work here, I'm suing. Not kidding at all. Everyone else does a fine job as well (Special mention goes to Mewes for actually going through with a certain scene...you'll know it when you see it).

This film is very much like all of Smith's other films, but also very different. His trademark dialogue -- witty, crude, and realistic -- is ever-present, most notably in the memorable Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings scene, but this time it's clear that he's growing as a visual artist. The camera moves much more in Clerks II than in any of his other films, most notably during a heated argument behind Mooby's. In this scene, the camera constantly spins around Dante and Randal in a 360 shot, giving us the exact tension that the scene needs. A scene in which Dante and Randal retreat to a go-cart track (the aptly named "Skidmarks") is also beautifully shot (Editor's Note: Plus, you have to love the inclusion of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head" in the soundtrack).

You can't really go wrong here. Unless you're offended very easily (two words: interspecies erotica), you're sure to have a blast with Clerks II. The idea of this film had been bandied about for years and I'm glad that it finally materialized. Will this be the last film set in the Askewniverse? I really hope not. But if it is, this is a perfect way to end it. Goodbye, Horses. Jay and Silent Bob return (despite what Kevin Smith said) in Clerks II.

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