Clerks III – Review

Release Date – 16th September 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 40 minutes, Director – Kevin Smith

After suffering a major heart attack Randal (Jeff Anderson) decides to make a film about his life in the convenience store he co-owns with best friend Dante (Brian O’Halloran).

Since first meeting them 28 years ago Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) appear to have been consistently been stuck in the same place in life. Dante is trying to find a way to move on with his life and change, while Randal simply hasn’t changed at all. They’re back at the Quick Stop Convenience Store, which they now co-own, dealing with the same customers (and colleagues, Mooby’s staff member Elias (Trevor Fehrman) has followed along with fellow Christian Crypto Club member Blockchain (Austin Zajur)). Once in their early-20s the pair are now approaching 50 and little has come of their lives.

It’s this fact that Randal begins to reflect on after suffering a major heart attack which he’s told only 20% of people survive. In order to make his mark on the world he decides, with no experience other than having seen plenty of films, to make a movie based on his life at Quick Stop. He just needs to jump over the hurdles of funding, casting, script disagreements, hiring crew and dealing with Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), who have ‘transformed’ the former video store into a dubious THC shop.

It’s acknowledged that this is Kevin Smith’s most personal film since perhaps the first Clerks. Once again inspired by his own interactions and experiences – following on from his own ‘widow-maker’ heart attack a few years ago – the heart and centre of this film is still the friendship between Dante and Randal. The film acts as a reflection for them just as much as it does for Smith and his career so far. There’s certainly more of a narrative form to this third entry than the previous two but it’s pushed along well thanks to the fact that Smith knows exactly how to get the characters to move things along and how to work them into each scenario. It’s clear that he, and the cast as a whole, care about them and whilst looking back throughout the film – with a number of throwbacks throughout – try to show, at least some of them, trying to move forward.

This comes in the form of Dante still grieving from the loss of his partner Becky (Rosario Dawson). It’s a strand that, much like a number of the emotional moments, doesn’t quite click due to the briefness of the scenes focusing on it. Certainly such elements don’t cause you to disengage from the film, perhaps partly down to their briefness, but they do feel like more asides from the main thread. The most effective sequence comes in the form of a scene-filming which captures Dante’s feelings about how he’s been stuck in the same place for nearly three decades. Fuelled by his emotional baggage, and the silence around the scene, it leads to an excellent extended rant from O’Halloran, undisturbed by the occasional glance to the camera crew with gag potential the flow is unbroken as the outburst commands attention.

While perhaps the emotional beats might not always hit home the comedic elements throughout the film frequently get a positive response. This is a very, very funny film. While it initially feels odd having certain references to the likes of NFTs and even The Mandolorian in a Clerks film things eventually settle down and the series of nerdy conversations, stoner jokes and bragging about penis size – something which Randal seems more concerned about when in the hospital having a heart attack – that’s almost come to be expected from these films takes prominence; not to mention the customers. All wrapped in the standard style of natural conversation that comes from both Smith’s screenplay and the performances. While some figures may lean into the absurd, still managing to gain laughs in the Clerks and View Askew world that Smith has created, they generally compliment Dante and Randal’s views of everyone around them.

Smith mentions towards the end of the credits that the first film was based on a viewpoint that ‘this job would be so much better if it wasn’t for the f*cking customers’, yet now there’s a realisation that it wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for the f*cking customers. The same goes for fellow colleagues at the Quick Stop, and even the video rental/ THC store next door. Clerks has long been about Dante and Randal’s friendship and the way in which they interact with each other and those around them. It’s put to the fore of Clerks III as it takes a look back at their lives as they properly face the idea of still being stuck in the same place thanks to life intervening and holding them back. Yet, they’re very much the same figures, now both beginning to acknowledge that they’re getting older instead of just one. It’s heartfelt from all who have stuck around with these characters throughout the three (and in some cases more) films. The emotional beats might not always hit, but that doesn’t stop this from being a frequently laugh-out-loud funny return to the Quick Stop. A far from inconvenient assurance that they’re very much still open.

While the emotional beats might not always click due to their briefness there’s plenty of laughs to be found within Clerks III as it takes a thoughtful stance on its central characters trying to move on with their lives whilst looking back. It’s not perfect, but it is rather brilliant.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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