Launching his career with a subversive script and a dream, Kevin Smith became a cult hero in the 1990s. The power of Clerks was obvious from the word go. Simple, yet surprisingly artistic, Smith built an empire off this success. However, Smith’s recent films have been met with far less acclaim. However, that streak should end with a return to his flagship franchise. Clerks III not only serves as Smith’s most personal work, but it offers up some of his funniest work in years.
Life at the Quick-Stop continues the monotony. Randal (Jeff Anderson) and Dante (Brian O’Halloran) continue to talk Star Wars and crack jokes. They’ve hired Elias (Trevor Fehrman), who has become a Christian crypto-bro. When Randal suffers a heart attack, he decides to try his hand at filmmaking. After all, no one has ever seen a movie that takes place entirely in a convenience store.
Smith puts much of his own life into the screenplay, which is far from surprising. Yet after his heart attack in 2018, we have seen more urgency from the director. Smith leaves every joke and heartfelt moment on screen. While it’s not All That Jazz, it is a nostalgic and sincere film.
We also see the typical cavalcade of nods, homages, and cameos one expects from Smith. Fences have been mended and he calls in the favors he has with half of Jersey-based talent. One sequence allows for fun impressions and silly gags. While the audience may be busy pointing out who they know on screen, it does allow for plenty of laughs after several sequences of tough character moments.
While wrapping up Dante and Randal’s story provides an interesting narrative, it does present problems. First, Smith makes a decision to kill off an integral character of a past film. This forces issue number two, an increased pressure on O’Halloran and Anderson to deliver emotional performances. While both performers are more than capable of landing comedic beats, they struggle with the heartbreak. Smith lays too much grief on both characters, and as a result we can feel them pushing too hard to capture the moment.
It seems unlikely this will be the last time we see Jay or Silent Bob. Yet both Jason Mewes and Smith deliver some of their best material. Watching lower key, less pivotal roles than Jay and Silent Bob Reboot also lets them cook. Seeing their progression from drug dealing loiters in Clerks to successful owners of a Dispensary in Clerks III will make you realize how much has changed over the last thirty years.
For fans of Smith, Clerks III was always a must-see. Yet even those who check in on an occasional entry will find themselves entertained. With less Easter Eggs and more heart than Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, Smith’s return to form gives us his best movie in years.