Want to know the single most shocking thing about Clerks II? No, it’s not just how chubby the thirtysomething Randal and Dante look. No, it’s not Jason Mewes’ nude dancing. And no, it’s not even the sex show with the donkey. What leaves your jaw on the floor is just how astoundingly sweet it is. For all the swearing, nerd vs nerd showdowns, graphic gaggery and, yes, donkey shagging, this is a movie about love and friendship. But in a totally heterosexual way, dude. Picking up a decade after the original (and switching from black-and-white to colour), we find counter-jockies Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) working in a Mooby’s burger franchise after a fire put their convenience store from the first film out of business.
Randal’s as sewer-mouthed and sarky as ever – the Star Wars-is-better-than Tolkein bitchslap he delivers to two Lord Of The Rings fans is priceless – but Dante’s about to move on, preparing to marry Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach) and leave Jersey behind for a life in Florida. Will Dante actually leave? How will Randal cope? How is Dante’s ‘friendship’ with new lady boss Becky (Rosario Dawson) going to pan out? And will they ever be able to return to the store?
Bigger and bolder than the original, Clerks II delivers everything you ever dared wet dream about from a Smith flick. It stays true to the spirit of the first movie while never simply retreading it – Smith expanding subjects and arguments outwards into whole new realms of obscenity, absurdity (there’s a frickin’ dance sequence!) and just plain old fun – as much for the audience as for the cast and crew. After all, as the mammoth 90-minute ‘Making Of’ doc on disc two shows, that was the point of shooting it in the first place... All too often – oh Lord, how bleedin’ often! – Making Of docs are the dullest of upbeat fillers. So-and-so co-star was great, the director was a love and the producers? Visionaries of Biblical stature. Unsurprisingly, the Clerks II Making Of doesn’t go in for this species of space-wasting bollocks.
From the implosion of Jersey Girl, to Smith walking away from the guaranteed pay cheque of Green Hornet; from the decision to revive his View Askew characters (despite what he said at the end of Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back) to dealing with the vagaries of Harvey Weinstein and the drug habit of Jason Mewes; from all the actresses who turned Clerks II down (Ellen Pompeo, Sarah Silverman, Bryce Dallas Howard) to some genuine pools of sticky emotion as an initially reluctant Jeff Anderson finds himself choking up in the final shot... This is a touching, insightful, funny and genuinely engrossing documentary.
But the best thing? Well, even without Back To The Well: Clerks II, this would still be an irresistible package. Smith et al. have always treated DVD buyers well and they’ve pushed the boat out this time. You get three commentaries, 40 minutes of deleted scenes, a featurette on, ahem, ‘Interspecies Erotica’, a blooper reel and even a couple of easter eggs. You’ll find these on the menu screen for perhaps the smartest extra: 10 of the best of the 75 Train Wreck video diary blogs that Smith posted on his website during production. A few more of these pop up on the exclusive DVD stuck to the front of this Anniversary Issue of Total Film (unless you live outside the UK, in which case you’ll just have to, um, imagine them –and the music vid and VH1 Clerks II Movie Special on there, too). Back on the regular release, nearly everything comes with an intro from Smith and producer buddy Scott Mosier, too – each of which plays like an audition tape for a stand-up act.
Non-fans really need to put their prejudices on hold and give it a go. It may not have convinced Jonathan Ross – chuck “Kevin Smith” and “Jonathan Ross” into YouTube to witness the BBC man giving our Kev (and his entire back catalogue) one almighty kicking. But ignore the spangly suited one, as Lounge reckons you’re in for a big, foulmouthed surprise that might just win you over. Roll on Clerks III. Well, we can dream...