After wilting in the heat of NBC's party Saturday night (the recorded temperature at one point was 111 degrees, the highest in Pasadena since the 19th century), I needed some air conditioning therapy, and with a small afternoon window yesterday, I went to see "Clerks II" at LA's ArcLight, a movie theater that makes me weep over the multiplexes I have to visit at home.
Short version: Loved it, but I'm biased. Longer, more spoiler-y version after the jump...
The original "Clerks" holds special meaning to me. It came out when I was a college sophomore, still new to the world of indendent films. In the span of a few weeks, I went to screenings for this and "Pulp Fiction," and did my first phone interview with an honest-to-goodness filmmaker in Kevin Smith. (Who was, in retrospect, much gentler with me than he needed to be given my completely unformed interviewing technique. I believe one of the questions I asked, God help me, was, "So now that you've made the quintessential movie about convenience stores, what are you going to do next?") While I wasn't living the exact personal circumstances of Dante or Randal, I was about the same age and feeling the same dislocation -- that "Is this what I should be doing?" question that's an even more dominant theme of the sequel.
I have friends like Fienberg who felt the more philosophical parts of "Clerks II" were just getting in the way of the comedy, but I liked them. Again, my life (including a wife, a daughter and a stable, non-soul-deadening job) doesn't really resemble our heroes', but there are still those moments where I stop and ask the same questions about my future. Now, I saw "Jersey Girl" when Julia was only a few months old and I was struggling to adapt to the demands of parenthood, so that movie should have spoken to me as much as "Clerks II" did, but I was just as bored by it as the rest of the world. I think Dante and Randal are just much more specific, interesting and -- most important -- funny characters than Affleck was in "Jersey Girl."
And "Clerks II" is damn funny, possibly Smith's funniest overall movie since "Mallrats." "Chasing Amy" and "Dogma" are both better films, but nothing in either one made me laugh nearly as much or as hard as the scene where Elias explains to Randal why he and his girlfriend don't have sex, or Jay's Jame Gumb impression (and I'm not talking about the "It puts the lotion in the basket scene"), or Jay and Silent Bob's get-what-you-pay-for free meal.
I loved all the little call-backs to the original, whether it was Dante's nail polish fetish or the mention of the funeral or, especially, that last shot in the Quick Stop. When the screen faded to black and white, Soul Asylum came on the soundtrack and we saw the milk lady continuing her futile quest, a feeling of almost pure joy came over me. Change in life is great, but sometimes the best things are the ones that stay the same.
Anybody else see it yet? If so, thoughts?