Friday, January 12, 2007


You can't go home again

By Edward Copeland
When it gets to the point of Kevin Smith's Clerks II when Silent Bob (Smith) usually speaks for the first time, Bob says, "I've got nothing" and unfortunately, that's how I felt when finally catching up with Clerks II, which was a real disappointment to me — and this is coming from someone who even defends Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

After the deserved critical drubbing that Smith's Jersey Girl took, Clerks II seems like a retreat onto safer ground following previous declarations that Jay and Silent Bob had been retired. That could be forgiven if Clerks II provided the steady stream of laughs that most Smith films cook up, even misfires such as Mallrats or Dogma, but I laughed very little in Clerks II.

As a DVD viewer, you know a movie isn't working for you when you grow impatient for it to end so you can get to the commentary track, because you suspect it's going to be funnier than the movie itself. Even that is a little disappointing, though it is more interesting than the film itself.

The film does have some things going for it — Rosario Dawson is a surprisingly good addition to the View Askew universe as Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal's boss at Mooby's after the Quick Stop burns down.

For me, as I expected it would, the funniest moment came from Randal (Jeff Anderson) ridiculing The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy to a couple of obsessed Hobbitologists, though Anderson's timing seems off 12 years after we first met him and he's just not quite as funny as he was in the original.

The other thing that Clerks II does have going for it is a surprisingly truthful, somewhat dramatic, scene late in the film between Randal and Dante on their friendship. It reminded me of the growth that Smith obviously wants to take but that he seems burned by from the reception to Jersey Girl.

Chasing Amy remains my favorite Smith film because it perfectly blended his humor and his pathos and I hope he finds a way to get back to that somehow but writing is Smith's strength. Also, based on many of his films and especially Clerks II, Kevin Smith is starting to remind me of Adam Goldberg's character's declaration in Dazed and Confused: I think he wants to dance. Deep down, I think Smith longs to make a honest-to-goodness musical and that could be interesting if he ever tries that route.

I'm still a Kevin Smith fan, but Clerks II left me cold. He seems to be in a sad pattern: Mallrats fails, he tries something new (with success) in Chasing Amy. Emboldened, he tries Dogma. When it stumbles, he retreats to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. He tries a different direction with Jersey Girl — when it gets smacked, he retreats again to Clerks II, passing up a chance to make a Green Hornet movie.

Smith needs to have more faith in himself and keep taking risks instead of always falling back on the familiar.

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