When we left our favorite misanthropic antiheroes Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) in 1994 we had a feeling they’d be disgruntled clerks well into the new millennium. Sure enough our 12-year reunion finds them still slacking off in the same Jersey town--only they’re now “working” at fast-food joint Mooby’s after a fire burnt down the Quick Stop; sidewalk stalkers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (writer/director Kevin Smith) have also been forced to take their acts to Mooby’s. Now in their thirties and miserable as ever Dante and Randal still profanely voice their discontent in front of their easygoing boss lady (Rosario Dawson) virgin coworker (Trevor Fehrman) and unsuspecting patrons but at least one of them is planning to finally grow up: Dante is set to move with his fiancé Becky (played by Smith’s real wife Jennifer Schwalbach) to Florida in hopes of starting a new life much to Randal’s objection.
Clerks II truly has the feel of a reunion: We haven’t seen our good buddies O'Halloran and Anderson in a dozen years and we’re curious what they’ll look like etc. because save for a few minor roles they’ve been M.I.A. ever since! They look older but they still trade vulgarities with the best of ‘em--with Anderson’s Randal typically doling out the insults and O'Halloran’s Dante whining about them--and possess acting chops making it a wonder we haven’t seen the two much since ’94. Mewes’ Jay in the sequel is based at least loosely on the actor’s own off-screen “arc ” which has seen drug addiction and current sobriety. Mewes’ scenes are again the film’s best and while some will complain of not enough screen time that’s actually the best restraint exhibited by Smith. Newcomer Dawson makes for an odd addition to the odd couple but she more than holds her own with their obscene sex ponderings and more importantly plays down her looks enough to pull it off. The first Clerks was considered a seminal offbeat masterpiece and writer/director Smith along with Richard Linklater and others was branded a forefather of ‘90s indie. However since then Smith has failed to produce a single box-office hit and here we find him reverting to his ol’ reliable seemingly a stab at career revival. The film is both hit-and-miss and as a whole hit-or-miss but therein lies the essence of Kevin Smith for which we’ve longed since his heyday. While he clearly makes some concessions for the bigger-budgeted sequel—-Smith occasionally tries to please the crowd the film is in color etc.--his observations on everything from Lord of the Rings geekdom to taboo sex moves are again liberated and anyone with an open if filthy mind will eat it up. And refreshingly Smith seems at peace with the fact that even if this sequel had been flawless it couldn’t have possibly satisfied his original cult fans many of whom are now also in their thirties and will enjoy the odd sweetness of Smith’s take on growing up.