Monday, July 24, 2006

"I'm not even supposed to be here today!"

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?


Anonymous said...

I love these characters... in a totally heterosexual way.

This movie doesnt disappoint. It is a laugh-fest with a heart-worthy story.

To be honest I am quite shocked that you found the time to check it out, with your hectic schedule this weekend.

lady t said...

I just saw it today(double featured with Lady in the Water,which is better than the reviews say it is)and it was a really cool bookend to the first movie. Some phrases from the film are just gonna make me and my sis laugh randomly like"Pillowpants","inter-species erotica" and a couple that are a tad too raunchy to repeat here:)

dark tyler said...

Just when I thought there was no hope for Kevin Smith anymore, you know? Jersey Girl was so painfully bad and atypical of Smith's sensitivities that I honestly thought that the man who used to write beloved geeky stuff like Mallrats or Dogma or Daredevil and Green Arrow comics was lost forever. Clerks II is not exactly a maasterpiece (like Chasing Amy, one of my favourite movies of all time) but marks the return of the Kevin Smith we've known and loved...

PS. lady t, Shyamalan's movies usually are.

R.A. Porter said...

So I'm the guy. Apparently I'm the only person who liked "Jersey Girl". It probably helped that Kevin Smith included the "Sweeney Todd" chair delivery scene.

"Bless my eyes/Fresh supplies."

Adam said...

Posted my review this morning without knowing this was up. I liked this movie a lot, and much of it is because of that third act pivot into why they're still clerks, and why Smith still makes movies about them.

It was good enough to make me not want to criticize the Magical Latina nature of the Dawson character, or the Hey! That Must Be The Director's Daughter! shot of, yes, the director's daughter. Not since that shot of Sorkin in the West Wing finale has a filmmaker more given the audience a "gosh, that must be someone important" feeling for an otherwise minor shot.

I imagine it was "ass-to-mouth" that convinced Joel Siegel to leave?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I hear Siegel walked out because of the donkey show, but I could be wrong.

Magical Latina, eh? I'll have to think about that. I think she was just another idealized woman by Smith, in the mold of Joey Adams in Chasing Amy or Liv Tyler in Jersey Girl. There's always one woman in every one of his movies that Kevin wants you to fall in love with, and here it was her.

Anonymous said...

Okay, now I *know* I'm on the other side of the generational divide.

I also saw "Clerks II" yesterday, was sporadically amused (as I'd been during "Dogma" and "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," the only other Smith flicks I've seen)... but was left puzzled as to why this guy has such a huge reputation amongst younger Americans. I think he lacks wit. I don't think he has anything to say about human nature. His sentimentalism is as paper-thin as his attempts to "shock."

But maybe it's me. Because I've also never gotten "South Park." Yep... totally do not get "South Park." Not funny to me. "Family Guy" is sort of growing on me, but it rarely makes me laugh out loud, the way "The Simpsons" often does. Even though it tries ten times harder.

What Kevin Smith, Parker & Stone and Seth McFarlane have in common (aside from a similarly adolescent impulse to "shock" and transgress) is a sense of humor based entirely inside the echo-chamber of pop culture. Goodness gracious, what did people make jokes about before "Star Wars," '70s cop shows, Saturday morning cartoons and "E.T."?

In my day, we had "SCTV"... and I'm rocking those DVDs as we speak. Yeah, they parodied TV and the movies, but they did it through brilliant observations of character, and through comic acting that reached the heights of theatrical art, and through writing of genuine wit and ambition. What do we have today that compares? ("Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Daily Show," "Da Ali G Show," not much else.)

Even "Strangers with Candy," which shares the same Second-City-improv DNA as "SCTV," would rather mudlark around in smutty gags and the comedy of hostility than reach for something higher. The "Strangers with Candy" movie blew. I weep for what's becoming of American culture.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and remove this stick from my ass. (Don't worry... I won't go A2M.)

Anonymous said...

Here's Siegel explaining himself to Smith (as well as Alan's favorite radio team).

Louis said...

Here's the Onion on Kevin Smith's career highlights. Pretty funny.

Anonymous said...

lady t said:
>>Some phrases from the film are just gonna make me and my sis laugh randomly like "Pillowpants","inter-species erotica" and a couple that are a tad too raunchy to repeat here:)<<

I saw it yesterday and thought it was hilarious. I laughed myself silly when the Jame Gumb thing was fully revealed. And yeah, there's a lot that is funny that cannot be quoted in polite company, so the friend I saw it with and I are relying on things like "Pillowpants" and "Listerfiend" and "I'm taking it back!" to crack ourselves up.

And what is a Magical Latina? I bought into Rosario's character as a down-to-earth girl who would be into a goofball like Dante. Their relationship is based on knowing each other's personalities well, and I didn't think she was just some idealized female character.