Clerks II

Any movie featuring a guy who has sex with a donkey — he calls it "interspecies erotica" — cannot be accused of playing it safe. You too may want to see if a dude with a mouthful of donkey spunk really swallows. But you'll also see bloat and Hollywood gloss in the sequel that marks writer-director Kevin Smith's return to the New Jersey scene of Clerks, the 1994 raunchfest he shot in black-and-white for $27,000. Clerks II is filmed in color, and there's even a dance number using a crane shot. Worse, now that the clerks — Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and his pal Randal (Jeff Anderson) — have entered their thirties, they are stopping to take stock of their lives. Smith fans who felt toxic shock when he went soft in 2004's Jersey Girl have reason to worry. Success as a filmmaker, and as the Internet master of View Askew, has mellowed our boy. That said, Clerks II shows potent signs of recovery. When Dante and Randal stop talking big issues and just riff on whether The Lord of the Rings trumps Wars as a trilogy or whether you should ever go ass to mouth during sex, the movie flies high on its own laughing gas. The Quick Stop and the video store where the clerks worked have burned down. The guys now slave at a fast-food dump called Mooby's. Dante is about to move to Florida with his hyper fiancee (Jennifer Schwalback, Smith's wife) and leave behind Becky (Rosario Dawson), the improbably gorgeous Mooby's manager, who really loves him. Randal sets up the geeky, virginal, Transformer-crazed Elias (Trevor Fehrman, in the film's -making performance) as his new verbal punching bag at work. Best of all, Jason Mewes is out of rehab to play Jay and spar with Smith as Silent Bob, his dope-dealing partner. All is well with the Clerks world when these stoners take the screen, write "Eat Pussy" on a restaurant wall and prove that guys can grow old and stay immature forever.

From The Archives Issue 368: April 29, 1982