Kevin Smith has tried twice already to end the View Askewniverse. The first attempt was Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in 2001 which was an Avengers: Endgame style of cross-over bringing back all the characters from the first Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy and even an end-credits appearance by God (Alanis Morisette) from Dogma literally closing the book on the franchise.
Smith’s attempts to branch out into other movies was the disappointing Jersey Girl, which is his only PG-13 rated movie. The movie came out after the disaster that was Gigli and the end of the Bennifer relationship between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. When you stray from the formula, you have to pay the price. Clerks II came out in 2006 and in many ways is a superior movie. It would’ve been a more fitting ending to the franchise as Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) have bought the QuickStop with help from Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith). Dante is going to marry his girlfriend, Becky Scott (Rosario Dawson), as she is pregnant with their child.
It had a nice ending. Smith then made Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which also co-starred Anderson and Mewes in different but similar roles. It was a success and then he directed the hack-for-hire Cop Out, an action buddy cop comedy with Bruce Willis and Tracey Morgan. It was Smith’s highest grossing movie but his on-set conflicts with Willis who he had co-starred with on Live Free or Die Hard became the stuff of Hollywood gossip. Upon hearing of Willis’ retirement as he’s suffering from aphasia, Smith later publicly expressed a change of heart about Willis.
Smith moved away from stoner/slacker comedies and got a little more serious by making Red State about a violent cult of a church. The movie was praised by some including Quentin Tarantino (mainly because Smith cast Michael Parks as the Fred Phelps-inspired pastor) but it didn’t even make half of its $4 million budget back. While both Parks and John Goodman gave good performance and there were some surprises, I feel the movie would’ve worked better had it had the apocalyptic ending Smith had intended.
Then, he made the body horror comedy Tusks, also starring Parks as a mad scientist who turns a character played by Justin Long into a human walrus. After that, he made Yoga Hosers, starring his daughter, Harley Quinn Smith, as a Canadian convenience store clerk who battles Nazi bratwurst creatures with her friend, played by Lily-Rose Depp. I got about 10 minutes into it and stopped watching.
But everyone was asking, where’s Clerks III? Well, Anderson didn’t want to reprise his role as Randall a third time saying he had been typecast. After two movies and a failed animated series, most actors are looking for an attempt to do something else. Supposedly, there was some bad blood between Smith and Anderson which explains why Anderson is missing from A Jay and Silent Bob Reboot even though O’Halloran appears as Dante. Reboot was released in 2019.
But the two rekindled their relationship and made Clerks III which does focus more on Randal rather than making him a wise-cracking sidekick to Dante. That might be what attracted Anderson to return. This time around, the focus is more on him than Dante. Randal has a heart attack while ragging on Elias Grover (Trevor Fehrman), the ultra-Christian co-worker who they met working at Mooby’s. Elias has his own Silent Bob friend with Blockchain Coltrane (Austin Zajur) as they are hoping to sell NFT kites with the Buddy Christ logo on them.
Randal’s heart attack is inspired by Smith’s own massive heart attack in 2018. Smith later changed his health choice and went vegan, losing a lot of weight which was apparent in Reboot. At the hospital, the doctor (Amy Sedaris) tells him that only about 20 percent recover fully. Realizing that he’s almost 50 and he hasn’t done much except work at QuickStop and the video store, he decides to make a movie about his life. It is a metahumor parody as he and Dante discuss some of the things they are going to film.
It’s at this point, I think it’s important to tell you that Becky died in a car accident shortly after the events of the second movie. This isn’t a spoiler as this is revealed in the first few minutes. For the past 15-16 years, Dante has been grieving the loss of her. I’m not really sure I think this was the right choice for Smith. It looked like Dante was finally going to make it. Becky appears briefly as a vision to Dante in some scenes I won’t mention.
Watching certain scenes from the original Clerks being filmed with the same actors almost 30 years older is a nice touch. True Smith fans will recognize the hockey stick being used as a boom mic and Jay demanding everyone go inside as they film the dance scene on the first day of filming, which happened during the actual filming of Clerks. There are also some surprising cameos that I won’t reveal because it’s one of the movie’s highlights. And there’s a clarifcation over what Sang, Caitlin Bree’s fiance was. He was of Asian ancestry majoring in Asian design. We also find out about the mysterious door between the QuickStop and video store as it’s now it’s been converted into a home for Randal. As for the video store, it’s now a cannabis store operated by Jay and Silent Bob.
One of the movie’s funniest running gags is how Elias renounces Christianity while in the hospital waiting room and praises Satan and offers to give his soul over if Randal will live. Elisa and Blockchain spend the rest of the movie constantly changing their attire to look more outrageous as they mostly dress in goth and darker clothing.
The ending, that I won’t give away, pretty much ensures this is the last Clerks movie as well as possibly the official end of the View Askewniverse. Smith has expressed his desire to make a sequel to Mallrats, but now that it’s 2023, it would be 30 years since the release of the first movie. Malls aren’t the big hotspots they were back in the mid-1990s and Smith has already hinted in Reboot the mall is falling apart. The ending of Clerks III might lose some of the Smith fan base.
I laughed and found some moments to be clever. And there was some sincerity between Randal and Dante that hasn’t been used in previous movies. But Smith pulling an Alien 3 with the fate of Becky wasn’t the right course. Watching some of the deleted scenes, Smith cut some more scenes of Dante grieving which I think would’ve benefitted the movie by remaining in the final cut. It would’ve also been more foreshadowing of the ending.
Devoted fans of Smith’s movies will love it, but this isn’t the first movie of his to see and definitely not the first in the View Askewniverse. It’s not his worst movie. The characters of Dante, Randal, Jay, Silent Bob and even Elias have become a loveable gang of lunkheads that you both love but can also get annoyed by. That’s what Smith has managed to do since he first started filming the first movie back in the early 1990s. You felt a connection to them. And if you worked at any time working in retail or serving the public, you understood their frustration and aggravation.
What do you think? Please comment.