Clerks II: 2-disc Special Edition [Blu-ray]
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Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (5th July 2009).
The Film

When Kevin Smith gave the two most ribald characters from “Clerks” (1994), Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), their own film, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (2001), it was seen as a fitting send off to his beloved “View Askewniverse” characters. The post-credits ending even featured God (Alanis Morissette) closing the book on that world… though obviously not for good. Smith wanted to branch out, having felt he was limiting himself by making films featuring the same characters ad infinitum. His next project was “Jersey Girl” (2004), which was doomed from the start due to it featuring the current hot celebrity couple, “Bennifer” (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez), who were fresh off their mega box office bomb, "Gigli" (2003). As expected, though perhaps not warranted, “Jersey Girl” tanked and Smith decided to revisit the world he had left behind.

This brings us to “Clerks II” (2006), a clever follow-up intended to showcase dealing with life in your 30’s. While “Clerks” followed the exploits of Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) in their 20’s, full of life and ambition, “Clerks II” finds them in their 30’s, working the same meaningless, tedious jobs and longing for something more. When a mishap causes their beloved place of employment, the Quick Stop, to burn to the ground, the duo eventually find work at a local burger joint, Mooby’s. Fearing that life is going to pass him by, Dante decides to move to Florida with his fiancée, Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), to pursue a new lifestyle. But Randal doesn’t want to let his friend go so easily, nor does Becky (Rosario Dawson), manager of Mooby’s and potential love interest of Dante. Knowing he’s at a crossroads in his life, Dante has to decide whether to move on, away from everything he’s ever known, or stay and try to make something meaningful of his life with the people he’s got now.

The plot sounds deceptively simple, and it’s supposed to. “Clerks” didn’t have some arc of purpose, some defining plotline intended to suck viewers in; no, what it had was Smith’s bitingly satirical dialogue, honed with his sharp wit and pop-culture intellect. “Clerks II” follows a similar pattern in that this film is a sardonic take on what happens when we age, how there isn’t some magical moment in life when things all of a sudden become incredibly better. It’s all about what you make it out to be, and Dante comes to realize that what matters most are good friends and familiar faces, people who fill the void that life can sometimes create.

Not much has changed for our two leads in the 12 years since we last joined them. Dante is still just as neurotic as ever, and Randal is still as irreverent and foul-mouthed as before. Therein lies one of the film’s most appealing factors: that of comfort. These are the same guys that people gravitated towards way back when, so it’s like meeting up with an old friend again once the film begins to play. Though much hasn’t changed in how they behave, you get the sense that they know their lives have had little purpose up to this point, and, surprisingly enough, it’s Randal who seems to yearn for something more in his own life. His problem is that he’s such an overgrown child that he’d probably say it was “super gay” to come out and talk about his innermost feelings. Dante, on the other hand, feels as though he’s been held back by Randal’s childish antics, so he seems all too willing to pack up and leave.

Smith’s trademark dialogue is in full effect here, although some of the bits go on for longer than necessary. Some discussions border on annoying because of phrases that are repeated ad nauseum (I think “ass to mouth” was used far too much within the span of 30 seconds), but most hit the mark, geeky as they may be. I’ve always respected that Smith is a proud geek, as he often devotes a good deal of screen time to discussions concerning quizzical issues from "Star Wars" (1977), comic books and fanboys’ wet dreams. As usual, Randal gets the best lines.

Aside from our lead duo, the cast is rounded out with many of the Askewniverse’s familiar faces. Jay and Silent Bob, of course, appear in their usual roles: drug dealers. This time, however, Jay is selling his drugs as a clean and sober man, no doubt intended to mirror Jason Mewes’ own victory over a drug addiction. In fact, one of the stipulations Smith had for bringing him back was that he get clean and stay clean. Rosario Dawson, looking strikingly sexy (love the glasses!), plays Dante and Randal’s boss at Mooby’s, Becky. I’ve always been a fan of how natural she appears on camera. Her acting is effortless and she comes across as that cool chick with nothing to hide. Longtime Smith collaborators Ben Affleck and Jason Lee both make cameos as Mooby’s customers, but Lee definitely steals the show as the one man able to get under Randal’s skin. I think my only cast complaint would have to be Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (aka Kevin Smith’s wife) as Dante’s fiancée, Emma. Smith treats her like she’s the hottest thing in the film on two legs (she’s not) and she also isn’t a particularly good actress. He originally wanted her to play Rosario Dawson’s role, a move that studio executives wisely vetoed. Luckily, she isn’t such a prominent figure that it ruins the film in any way.

Kevin Smith has said that he may want to one day revisit these characters in their 40’s. I’m definitely ok with that, because I was one of the many “Clerks” fans who thought that a sequel was a horrendous idea. But Smith proved me wrong by writing a relevant, sharp, witty film that embodies many of the best qualities that the original possessed. I’d certainly be interested in revisiting these characters one more time should he decide to complete the trilogy with a "Clerks III".

Video

Kevin Smith’s films have never been known for having any special look or visual signature style; he basically just points, shoots and lets his actors command the screen. Well, “Clerks II” is no different. The 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded transfer looks de-saturated and lifeless, although to be fair that was the look he wanted to achieve. Even though the image doesn’t sparkle, it still looks very much like high-definition.

Audio

The English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit is, as expected, mostly center-oriented as this is a dialogue-heavy film. Surrounds get some good use when any of the film’s many songs kick in, especially the rooftop dance number. Also included are English Dolby Digital 5.1 and French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound tracks.
Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

As you’d expect from a Kevin Smith film, this Blu-ray 2-disc set is packed with all kinds of bonus material. In fact, this is easily one of the most stacked Blu-rays I’ve come across, featuring multiple audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, a documentary, deleted scenes, bloopers, video production diaries and more.

DISC ONE:

Audio commentary #1 features director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and director of photography David Klein. This is a mostly technical track, with discussions concerning how scenes were lit, shot and composed for the film. Great for those who want to know the technical aspects of making a feature-length film, but possibly a little dry for those not so interested in how things get done.

Audio commentary #2 features director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and actors Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran and Jennifer Schwabach Smith. This is the party track for fans to listen to, as all of the participants have a ball reliving the experience of working on the film. Their enthusiasm for the project is infectious, and there are lots of great anecdotes to keep things moving here.

Audio commentary #3 is a podcast featuring director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and actor Jeff Anderson. You can download this track as an MP3 and listen to it while watching the film. In fact, the original intention was the release it while the film was still in theaters, that way people who wished to go back and see it again could listen to the track on a portable media device. Great concept, too bad it didn’t pan out. Still, it’s very cool that they decided to include it here, since there are some sprinklings of information not accounted for on the other two tracks.

An introduction to the film is available featuring director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier. This runs for 4 minutes and 38 seconds.

There is a reel of deleted scenes, introduced by director Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier, which runs for 38 minutes and 23 seconds. Annoyingly enough, there is no option to watch these scenes individually. They all just run as one continuous roll of footage. No bother, though, as nothing here would have really added that much to the finished film; most are just extensions or alternate ad-libs.

“A Closer Look at Interspecies Erotica” is a featurette which runs for 8 minutes and 59 seconds. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what this focuses on, as this was easily the most disturbing thing in the entire film… by far.

The disc also lists BD-Live as an available option, though selecting it brings you immediately to a notice that “network connected features for this disc are not yet available”. Going by the Weinstein Co.’s track record so far, I think it’s safe to say they’ll never become available.

DISC TWO:

“Back to the Well: Clerks II” is a documentary which runs for 96 minutes 53 seconds. Available with or without an introduction by director Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier, this is an exhaustive everything-but-the-kitchen-sink look at every conceivable aspect of making the film. Literally, every single possible thing you could want to know about how project’s genesis is covered here. Smith spares no details, giving fans a great insider’s look at how it all came together.

“The Clerks II VH1 Movie Special” is a featurette which runs for 19 minutes and 33 seconds. This is a much more condensed look at the making of the film. Typical for a show like this, the special is liberally sprinkled with film clips interspersed with interviews from the cast & crew.

A blooper reel, with introduction by director Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier, runs for 29 minutes and 59 seconds.

Finally, we have a series of "Train Wrecks" video production diaries, available with introduction by director Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier, which includes the following:

- “Revenge of the Mullet” runs for 6 minutes and 46 seconds. Smith and Mewes to go a hair salon to get their characters’ signature styles done.
- “Day One” runs for 3 minutes and 28 seconds. This is a look at the first day of shooting the film.
- “Meet the Crew with Jason Mewes – Part 1” runs for 3 minutes and 47 seconds. Mewes interviews some of the film’s behind-the-scenes players.
- “The Tongue Song” runs for 2 minutes and 48 seconds. Jason Lee performs a special song.
- “Lights…Camera…Tongue” runs for 5 minutes and 15 seconds. Smith talks to his wife about all the making out she does with Brian O’Halloran.
- “The Good, The Bad and The Man” runs for 6 minutes and 10 seconds. Smith shows the film to his friends Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez to gather some feedback.
- “The 8 Minute Standing O” runs for 5 minutes and 53 seconds. The title refers to the length of the standing ovation the film received after screening at the Cannes Film Festival.
- “Elements and Layers” runs for 6 minutes and 10 seconds. Visual effects supervisor Joe Grossberg talks about his involvement with the film.
- “Love the Camera” runs for 3 minutes and 14 seconds. This is a look at the photo shoot for the film’s theatrical poster.
- “Call 911” runs for 4 minutes and 12 seconds. Jeff Anderson pulls a scary prank onKevin Smith.

Surprisingly, none of the film’s many trailers are included.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B- Audio: B Extras: A+ Overall: B+

 


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