Silent Bob you're a rrrrrrrrrrude motherfucka! But you're cute as HE-AWL!
Clerks is good movie vibes. The third entry, which puts a cap on the franchise, tying up loose ends while circling back to the first one, is also surprisingly touching. It shows real emotion under the comedy more than past entries, while making you laugh properly, raucously like few comedies do.
If you're a fan of the series you'll appreciate how this script comes from the heart (no pun intended). It's an obviously, extra-personal script from Kevin Smith, rewritten after he suffered a near-fatal heart attack.
The supremely casual style and “second sequel” status make it easy to overlook as a sequel made with care and thought to enhance the previous ones. There’s tons here for fans — including the bonus of Marilyn Ghigliotti returning as Veronica. The Clerks-within-Clerks framing circles back to the start to close the loop, and will send fans rewatching the 1994 classic, which this commentates on, celebrates, and compliments brilliantly.
Performances are on point. Jason Mewes is a joy playing Jay playing Jay, crazy life force and energy still intact. Jeff Anderson reliably delivers as Randal. Trevor Fehrman comedically knocks it out the park as Elias, who turns to the dark side in this one to gut-busting effect. Brian O'Halloran anchors the story and, with Rosario Dawson, gives it some real soul. There's memorable turns from new faces in short but LOL inducing roles.
Smith is far from a good actor, but he is always fun to see on screen as Silent Bob in the View Askewniverse. If nothing else, he sets the give-no-fucks acting tone that gives the movies a ragged indie spirit. He also must make every other actor on set feel like a galactic talent, while breaking the fourth wall in a style no other director does, almost to give supplemental commentary.
The movie knows what it’s doing as a closing chapter, and feels like a farewell of sorts. It throws out references to other movies, too — including to Linklater, who laid groundwork with Slacker (1990) for the indie style Smith picked up and ran with. There’s a definite “love letter to cinema” feel, joining the crowd of notable directors doing this lately: Tarantino, Fincher, Scorsese…
Some will say "there was no need for a third,” but if you are emotionally invested in the series and its story, you won’t feel this way. This is fan service done right. The movie-within-a-movie framing is clever as a way to revisit the original, circle back to the start to close the loop, and celebrate and “touch up” the 1994 entry in a place or two where its ‘90s values and jokes will make modern audiences (and evidently, Kevin Smith of 2022) cringe.
This entry brings to the surface how big a theme mortality was in the original. It’s easy to overlook this, buried as it is under mounds of irreverent 90s black humour as high as Godzilla's asshole. It’s the glue that holds together the black humour, and the source of its energy. The genuine weight of perceiving life being wasted, and choosing humour and love in camaraderie over despair.
Clerks III had a near non-existent cinema run in some markets, and went straight to purchase on streaming platforms. Cinema distribution is fucked.
In any case, if you enjoyed past entries, this is unmissable.
James Lanternman writes movie reviews, essays, and moonlit thoughts. You can reach him at [email protected].
Previously… ‘Mental Health Crisis’ Means Dangerous Times