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Clerks II (2006)
Rated R

Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, and Rosario Dawson

Rating:
****
out of
*****

When Kevin Smith made Clerks in 1994, the whole "Generation X" subculture was just beginning to find its voice. Over-educated and underpaid men and women were trying to make it in a world where a college degree was the equivalent of a high school diploma. Having a college education didn't mean finding a good job, it just meant you'd be in debt up to your eyeballs but still be working behind a cash register, wearing a nametag, and going home to your parents' place until things "fell into place." For Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), things never really fell into place.

Twelve years after Clerks, they're still working behind a counter, wearing nametags, and waiting for things to happen to make their lives meaningful. About the only thing that's changed is the location. No longer working at the Quik Stop Convenience Store, they now work at Mooby's, a burger joint. Dante, however, is planning to leave New Jersey. He's actually found a girlfriend, gotten engaged, and is about to move to Florida with his fiancee, Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach.) Randal's not pleased about this development and neither is his boss, Becky (Rosario Dawson), for an entirely different reason.

It wouldn't be a proper Clerks sequel, or a Kevin Smith movie for that matter, without a lot of back-and-forth dialogue about subjects like the live-action Transformers movie, pornography, cracks on religion and racism, or arguments about which trilogy is better: Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings. Fellow Mooby's employee, the extremely naive Elias (Trevor Fehrman), provides many of the film's best laughs as the target of Randal's jokes and sarcasm.

Fans of the original film should enjoy the non-stop banter between perennial straight-man Dante and the ever-wisecracking Randal. Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) return to hang outside, sell drugs, and keep things unpredictable. (Jay's imitation of a scene from Silence of the Lambs warrants the price of admission alone.) People who've never seen the original Clerks -- those of the Wedding Crashers' target audience, for example -- will still "get" the movie. There's nothing deep here. But those of us who have seen the original will be able to extract the most enjoyment out of the film's vulgar humor and there's a lot of that to go around.

If Clerks II is missing anything, it's the insight that the original movie had into its characters that, along with all the vulgarity and toilet humor, made that film a statement about what it was like to be over-educated, underpaid, and unappreciated. Clerks II has a few tender moments and attempts a ham-fisted verbalization about getting older and living life on your own terms but it all comes together in a cop-out, deus ex machina ending that comes off more "Hollywood" than it should for a former independent movie maker like Kevin Smith.

Trivia: One of the things that most prompted Kevin Smith to make the film was a promise he made to friend Jason Mewes. If Mewes managed to stay off drugs he would be able to play the character of "Jay" one more time. Smith kept his promise. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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