Thursday, August 03, 2006

Film Notes: Clerks II

Is it okay to be a one-trick pony if that one trick is really good? Kevin Smith has essentially made the same movie seven times now. Basically, it's a movie about smart-ass New Jersey slackers hanging out, smoking, and having funny conversations. In Clerks, they did this in a convenience store, in Mallrats they did this in a mall, in Chasing Amy, they chatted about sexual choice, in Dogma, they went on the road and chatted about religion, in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, they chatted all over the country and made a lot of in-jokes, and in Jersey Girl, they chatted about kids and fatherhood. Now, in Clerks II, they hang out and talk in a fast-food joint. But, the thing is, it's still funny, if you set your expectations a bit low. In fact, the movie is actually about the joys of lowering your expectations and living your own life. Kevin Smith has made another philosophical justification to living life as a one-trick pony, which definitely counts as 'meta'.

I do wish he hadn't been reamed for Jersey Girl, which was actually a better movie than he usually makes. I'd like to see him push himself a bit more than he does. At least Woody Allen will make the occasional Zelig. The problem isn't that Kevin Smith keeps returning to the well; it's that his well isn't that deep. Basically, he draws from his life, and comic books, and John Hughes movies, and that's about it. I wish he was less of a pop-culture junkie because he has moments of real depth in his films that most filmmakers don't even attempt. Then he usually follows them with an extended reference to the Breakfast Club or Batman.

That said, Clerks II is a big relief because it's actually a bit funnier than the first film (which drags a lot more than people remember), doesn't have a bunch of in-jokes, and actually has moments of geniune character development. A final scene gives the two lead characters unexpected dimensions and justifies watching two movies worth of them talking. It's a very funny movie, and worth spending a summer afternoon on. I'm glad that these guys have decided to stay in New Jersey and underachieve. I just wish Kevin Smith hadn't.

6 comments:

The Pagan Temple said...

I can't think of his name, but the guy that plays Randy on "My Name Is Earl" is in that movie. He's the chubby, grubby looking blondish guy. Those kinds of movies can have their value as just pure escapist comedy. You would think though that Smith would want to move beyond that, at least temporarily. It would get old to me after awhile.

Reel Fanatic said...

I too enjoyed Clerks II for the simple reason that Kevin Smith still makes me laugh, no matter how many times he basically keeps making the same movie ... My favorite moment in Clerks II was Randal's diatribe about Porch Monkey while Wanda Sykes and Earthquake are trying to order ... priceless

Rufus said...

He's sort of like the Ramones for me. I mean, they made the same album over and over, but the formula worked so it is hard to complain. And I definitely think Kevin Smith has a real gift for writing comedy.

It's funny- just after I wrote this, I read that his next film is a sci-fi comedy. So, maybe he is ready to branch out. I mean, even if it turns out to be Clerks in Space, I think his ear for dialogue will be great in a new context.

Rufus said...

Patrick, you're talking about Jason Lee. He's a really great actor and Claire absolutely loves that show. He actually got his big break on Mallrats and Kevin Smith has put him in everything he's made since then. I think he's one of the funniest actors around.

The Pagan Temple said...

No, Jason Lee plays Earl. The guy I'm talking about is the guy that plays Earls brother, Randy. On the show tonight, it turns out he's deathly afraid of birds? That guy.

Rufus said...

Oh, I think that's Ethan Suplee, or something like that. I don't really watch it. But, he's another one who's in a lot of the Kevin Smith fims.