tek's rating:

Clerks. (R)
A.V. Club; IMDb; Kevin Smith Wiki; Miramax; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; View Askew; Wikipedia

So, this came out in 1994, but I'm not sure when or how I first saw it. Maybe on TV sometime, or VHS. I know I had the DVD at some point (probably one of the first DVDs I ever owned), but that couldn't possibly be how I first saw it. Anyway, I eventually got rid of that old DVD, and got the tenth anniversary special edition DVD, which has lots of bonus features. It came out in 2004 (obviously), but I didn't get it til some years later. Finally watching it in 2012, which is when I'm writing a long-delayed review of the movie for the first time. As for the features... there's a bunch of stuff I'm sure I'll never watch. But the main draw for me are some spots that were made for MTV, featuring Jay and Silent Bob, which I guess originally aired in like 1998, which is the year before "Dogma," the fourth movie in the View Askewniverse, came out. I didn't remember it being that long after this, the original movie, but whatever. I'm sure I couldn't have seen all the MTV spots on MTV, but I definitely remembered at least one of them. It was cool to see all of them on DVD. Another feature is a "lost scene" which had originally been written for the movie, but never filmed. I guess it was produced for the tenth anniversary DVD, animated in the style of the 2000 animated series which was based on this movie. But the nature of the scene... wow. It gets kinda hard to watch, I thought. It's hard to imagine something like that being filmed in live-action, like the movie, and... actually being included in the movie. Then again... there's some stuff that is in the movie that's kind of even more disturbing, I guess. Anyway... another bonus feature is a live-action short film called "The Flying Car," originally filmed in 2002, but which I'd never seen before. It features Dante and Randal, and it's freaking hilarious. And of course there's a trailer for the movie. And a Soul Asylum music video. And all the features have introductions by director Kevin Smith, and a couple of the intros also include producer Scott Mosier. It's all good stuff.

So... the movie itself is in black & white. It was a very inexpensively-made independent film, which launched the career of writer/director Kevin Smith. I may be wrong, but I kind of think of it as having also launched the era of popular indie films. Anyway... it's got a very '90s feel, but it was also kind of revolutionary, in a way. There's some very dark humor, and vulgar humor, and characters who seem in some ways like stereotypes or caricatures, not people you'd think of as really clever or classy, to put it mildly. However, they're actually quite memorable, crudely eloquent characters, and all the acting feels surprisingly natural and believable. Much of the dialogue is rather philosophical, even if the philosophy is couched in things like discussions of pop culture such as Return of the Jedi, and ruminations on difficult aspects of everyday life, such as jobs and relationships. It's a movie that some people might think sounds déclassé, but is actually very smart and insightful. And most importantly, funny as hell. (I'd say this is perhaps where the trend of shows and movies about teens and young adults who are sharply sarcastic and intelligent, yet relatively unmotivated and unconcerned with previous generations' perpetuation of false appearances of propriety... well, maybe not where the trend started, but probably where it really started becoming the norm.)

Anyway, about the plot. There's this 22-year-old guy named Dante Hicks, who works at a convenience store in New Jersey, called Quick Stop. He gets called into work on his day off when another employee calls in sick. The boss is supposed to show up at noon, otherwise Dante wouldn't have agreed to open the store. He has a game of hockey he's supposed to play at 2. Meanwhile, there are a couple of stoner drug dealers who hang out outside the store, named Jay and Silent Bob. Jay talks a lot, and is basically the dumbest, most vulgar character in the movie, but he's amusing. Silent Bob (played by Kevin Smith) basically just stands around not saying anything and barely reacting to Jay or anything else. Then there's Dante's girlfriend, Veronica, who stops into the store and talks with him about various things, including her desire for him to go back to school and do something more with his life than working at the Quick Stop. But they end up having a big argument. And then, finally, Randal Graves shows up, late. He works at the R.S.T. Video store next door, but he spends most of his time at Quick Stop, talking with Dante. He doesn't take his job seriously at all, and is completely disrespectful to pretty much everyone. Because he hates customers, and is basically just a wiseass. But, you know, funny. (Dante has the appearance of being smarter and more reasonable than Randal, but in spite of Randal's flippancy, laziness, and crudeness, in some ways he seems more contemplative and better adjusted than Dante. They both have better vocabularies than people their age generally did, I think, in many older shows and movies, which makes me think of this movie as a sort of coarser precurser to Dawson's Creek. Though I might also say this is sort of the 1990s equivalent of 1930s screwball comedies.)

There's lots of seemingly random discussion between Dante and Randal, and sometimes the random customers get involved. And eventually Veronica returns, and makes up with Dante. Though he's still hung up on his ex-girlfriend, Caitlin, with whom he is still friends, even though he hasn't seen her in a few years, since she now lives in Ohio. Anyway, he finds out through a notice in the newspaper that she's getting married, which she never mentioned to him. This disturbs him much more than it should, considering the good thing he's got going with Veronica. Meanwhile, he also finds out his boss isn't coming in after all, so he's stuck there til close. So, he decides to close the store for awhile and have his friends come over so they can play their hockey game on the roof. And later he closes the store to go to a wake for a girl he used to know who he just found out had died. (We don't get to see the wake in the movie, but it's the subject of the animated "lost scene" I mentioned... which can be watched as part of the movie on the DVD, or it can be watched independently.) And... later Caitlin shows up at the store. And... well, lots of other things happen throughout the movie, interspersed with all the discussion.

I don't want to give away any more about the plot. But I'll reiterate that it's a really funny movie, with some personal drama and epiphanies for Dante, and even a bit of subtle, unexpected sweetness on Randal's part. And... I dunno, the movie's just kinda interesting and thought-provoking, and stuff. And insane. It's kind of insane, at some points. It has some of the sort of redonkulousness that usually only happens in real life, and some things that can't or at least shouldn't happen in real life or movies. But still, it all works, in this case. I give the movie credit for inspiring numerous brilliant subsequent works from other artists, as well as blaming it for inspiring numerous stupid subsequent works by people who presumably aspire to Smith's level of skill but who clearly don't possess it. There aren't many people who can so masterfully craft this kind of cinematic sheep in wolf's clothing. Dumb movies are usually painfully obviously dumb, and smart movies are usually obviously smart. It takes a special kind of genius to make a genuinely smart movie that bears all the hallmarks of a dumb one, I'd say.


quirky index
View Askewniverse
official website; TV Tropes; Wikia; Wikipedia

Clerks * Mallrats * Chasing Amy * Dogma * Clerks: The Animated Series * Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back * Clerks II