A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
It is near impossible to discuss a sequel without a comparison to its predecessor. Theres a lot riding on a follow up, especially if the first instalment was a success, but even more so if it didn’t necessarily need a second chapter. “Clerks.”, the 1994 independent triumph that catapulted Kevin Smith into cult stardom is a classic example of the risks involved with creating a sequel; a sequel made more than decade after the original.
There should be a rule put in place that sequels must be created within a certain timeframe or else they are prohibited. The risks involved are far too great and potentially detrimental beyond repair. Creating something that is not a patch on the original and is at points too disturbing to watch tarnishes the respect the original generated in the first place. “Clerks II”, the follow up to “Clerks.” and Kevin Smith’s sixth directed feature is unfortunately a prime example.
Crunching the numbers, between the time that Smith’s first feature “Clerks.” was created and “Clerks II” was released, Smith’s films had cost an approximate collective total of $78,250,000. “Clerks.”, the debut film that Smith seemingly poured his heart and soul into, cost a 340th of this grand figure, and a mere 21st of the budget of “Clerks II”. It’s a sad fact, but a true one nevertheless; money changes everything, often for the worse.
“Clerks II” begins where the first left off, the Quick Stop Grocery store. The grainy black and white colour pallet is back, Dante Hicks once again shows up for work and everything seems to be a simple continuation of events. However, he, like the audience is shocked to find the inside of the store alight with fearsome, menacing orange flames that strike the senses with not just sound, but colour as well!
From this moment onwards, it’s clear that this sequel will not be very similar to the original.
It’s the nature of a sequel to be bigger, bolder and grander; this is no exception. What worked incredibly well with “Clerks” were the extensive takes that were stationary and uninterrupted. It said so much about the characters, their lives and their environment. Of course, the minuscule budget did not allow for elaborate camera equipment capable of capturing clever and high-end shots, yet it didn’t need to, those shots weren’t necessary. After noticing countless crane shots, dolly shots, tracking shots and 360 degree shots blended with quick-fire edits and an expansive soundtrack, it was more than clear that “Clerks II” had some funding behind it.
The film also possesses a narrative as opposed to “Clerks.”. The underlying themes of “Clerks II” can be summed up through Jay’s opening statement: “You know, sometimes I wish I did more with my life than hanging out the front of places selling weed n’ shit”. The theme of course is moving on.
We see Dante with a beautiful fiancé and plans to leave his burger pushing, minimum wage fast-food career to move to Florida and settle down, we see his right-hand man Randal Graves staying exactly where he is in life; rude, ignorant, lazy and frustrated and we see the past re-emerging and rudely giving the pair a reality check, whilst clashes of loyalty and desperate clashes of plans create tension and friction.
The narrative structure seems tacky, generic and bland in the grand scheme of things.
“Clerks II” is not a ‘bad’ film, it is however, very disappointing. Granted, the film definitely has it’s moments and throwbacks to the original; excessive and more contemporary pop-culture references for example, but the gratuitous crudeness, the endless genitalia-based jokes and ‘Hollywood-ized’ nature of it all takes so much away from the experience overall that it simply becomes one big let down after another. There are serious elements to it which seem odd, there are highly inappropriate moments involving donkeys which are just sick and the peculiar “ABC” dance sequence appears quite out of place.
There is a lot more of the enigmatic duo Jay and Silent Bob which is a nice touch, however it seems a little over the top at times. The pair seem more comical this time around, which diminishes their ‘cool’ factor significantly; they become goofy and animated all of a sudden. (Ironically as there are no animation sequences this time around).
Silent Bob’s minimal dialogue is highly anticipated and proves anti-climactic, whilst Jay’s Jame Gumb (Buffalo Bill) impressions actually proves quite humorous in comparison.
Overall, the follow-up film is a difficult art to master, especially with the temptations of money always looming and the feeling of change being a necessity. For such an excellent debut and a handful of films to his name, one would think Kevin Smith had his head screwed on correctly. “Clerks II” isn’t saying it’s not, it’s just reinforcing the statement that nothing is ever as good as the original.