I'm telling you now, Clerks 2 is nowhere near as funny as Clerks. It's not as witty, sharp, or snappy, and it's got a sappy streak a mile wide. Dante and Randal are older and fatter and a lot less appealing. A lot of the jokes are trying way too hard to be that peculiar kind of profound that Randal's Star Wars reflections are in the original, and failing miserably. Attempts to be subversive fall sadly flat, for the most part.
And that's why, in an odd way, I think it's actually a very interesting movie. See, Clerks, I think, was meant to capture something about its time, and make some kind of statement about 1994. But instead it's just a really fucking awesome, hilarious movie with a pretty rad soundtrack. It doesn't particularly feel like a reflection of its time, though it probably is in more ways than I can appreciate. Clerks 2, on the other hand, manages to document a certain cultural ethos of today in a way that I find really intriguing, partly because I'm not entirely sure that it's intentional. Humor me as I read way too much into the movie, but I think that it's trying to depict the world of these two guys, Dante and Randal, who are essentially losers. Ten years later, they're still working shit jobs. And while it was one thing back then, because you sort of believed it was just temporary, they were about to do something big, because obviously such awesome guys weren't losers, it's a bit different now. They're just not as funny anymore. It's gotten old. They're stuck in a past that in some ways is superior, but the fact that they appreciate that Star Wars movies are vastly better than the Lord of the Rings trilogy doesn't really mean much in the bigger picture. The fact is, Elias, the Transformers loving dork of Clerks 2, is the it generation now. Randal and Dante are washed up dorks whose wit has lost its edge, and they're beginning to realize they don't have much left. Their jaded cynicism is giving way to a genuine desire for love and domesticity, a desire they can only express in the cliche, trite language of crap late 90s movies. When Randal breaks down and tells Dante he loves him, it's not touching, it's lame, and kind of pathetic. It's not that it seems fake, it's rather that you get the sense that Randal can't find a language to express his deeper emotions in that isn't either cynical and sarcastic or cheesy and cliche. Clerks 2, thus, is a hollow movie because it's about hollow people, dudes who have outlived their lovability. And in that sense, it's actually kind of brilliant. Or so I think.
Honestly though, given Kevin Smith's more recent track record, I think the problem is more that he just ran out of genius, and has now somehow buried his head so far up his ass that he actually thinks that his movies are both funny and profound, and his idea of the profoundness doesn't depend on meta the way mine does. Yowza. How can the guy who wrote the script for Clerks, which is so goddamn brilliant it hurts, be capable of writing some of the tripe dialogue of Clerks 2? I really want to believe it's intentionally so bad, because the thought that it's sincere genuinely pains me.
I also wonder if the movie was actually trying to be subversive, or if it was intentionally trying to show how difficult it is to be subversive these days. Whereas the fisting discussion in Chasing Amy was a big fucking breakthrough, bestiality doesn't really shock anyone these days. Neither do Anne Frank jokes. We've been watching South Park for years. The racism bit, now that's intriguing. And quite funny, at moments. And highly offensive. And I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Which means it's made me think, which in my book, is a point in its favor at least, but the jury's still out on the issue.
Anyhow, an interesting movie, but I wouldn't drop everything and rush to the theatres. In fact, I think it could comfortably wait until video release. Here's hoping that Kevin Smith manages to recover his lost genius, wherever it may be. Because even with the most charitable reading, this movie just wasn't that great. Interesting, yes, but still...