‘Love’ might just be the key word that defines this film. It is for the fans that love these characters.
Written by Jack Ransom / September 18, 2022
The third and final instalment in Kevin Smith’s Clerks trilogy and the ninth feature in his View Askewniverse. Clerks III sees Dante (Brian O’Halloran), Elias (Trevor Fehrman), and Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) enlisted by Randal (Jeff Anderson) to make a movie about the convenience store that started it all, after he has a heart attack that gives him a new lease for life.
Smith has been a figurehead and flag waver of/for pop culture since he first appeared on the scene in 1994 with his inspired debut Clerks. Since then he has scribed comic books, made 13 other films and pioneered a podcast and merchandise empire. Whilst some might find his (often times) puerile humour, self-depreciation/grandiosity and unabashed and non-critical love of franchise IP’s irritating, it is undeniable just how much love Smith has, both for his audience and the properties (his own and others) he utilises for his craft.
‘Love’ might just be the key word that defines this film. It is for the fans that love these characters. It is for Smith to show how much he still loves them after all these years. The passing of time and legacy are two of the themes that course through the Mooby’s filled veins of this film. Randal’s mortality is thrown to the forefront and there is an aura of tragedy to the proceedings with the pair consistently reminding themselves and being reminded of the fact they are nearing 50. I knew there would be a strong and prominently on-the-nose emotional edge to the flick (with Smith centring the whole feature around his own near death experience and facing his age head on), but I certainly didn’t expect some of the darker and raw plot elements that are on display and honestly land really quite effectively at points.
Yet, at the same time this is a celebratory picture. I can’t stress enough just how big the grin on my face was when the gang began to recreate Clerks. From the cameo filled audition montage to the shot replications, the behind the scenes tidbits and trivia that fans are fully aware of are all here to please those in the know. Being a comedy the film substantially hinges on its humour. There are several snort worthy moments, great running gags (Elias’ costume change in every new location after he turns to the dark side) and one particular moment involving a cat and perfectly timed edit that had me crying with laughter. The soundtrack bangs. Opening the film with My Chemical Romance’s anthemic ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ certainly sets a precedent and the film is littered with punk bops and slower dramatic inclusions for key scenes.
Unfortunately the film doesn’t consistently nail it in the comedy department. The incredibly obnoxious and out-of-touch NFT/Crypto running joke (including a side character called “Blockchain”…), barrage of ‘heard it all before’ pop culture references and I personally find the ‘weed humour’ the least interesting element to Smith’s comedy and persona. From a production value the film can also look a little cheap and the colour palette quite garish (though the black and white transitions are great) and some emotional beats don’t land quite as well due to feeling a little rushed.
O’Halloran and Anderson still have great chemistry and nail Dante and Randal’s genuine friendship and visceral outbursts of anger, frustration and guilt. The former dealing with a huge crushing emotional weight (which at one point completely snaps and sees O’Halloran fully throw himself into the scene) and the latter still balancing snark and a sense of maturity and a new wave of motivation. Mewes and Smith do exactly the routine you have seen them do for the past near-30 years. Surprisingly enough it might just be Trevor Fehrman that is the highlight as Elias, who is playing tug of war with his devoted belief in Jesus and feeling the temptations of Satan.
Clerks III may not capture the fresh originality of the original or deliver as many shock humour moments as Clerks II, but it is certainly the most ambitious, emotionally charged and mature of the trilogy and probably of Smith’s Askewniverse outings. It’s undeniably great to be reunited with the Quickstop gang and there are several laughs to be had. However the NFT/Crypto gags, rushed feeling dramatic beats and very simplistic stylistic techniques do hold it back. Still deserves a rousing “Snoochie Boochies!” though.