Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Clerks

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, September 9, 1999

You know, there’s a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don’t all bring you lasagna at work. Most of ’em just cheat on you.

Special features

Commentary Track5
Deleted Scenes5
Music Video7

Two checkout clerks for the Sunshine Convenience Corporation who also happen to have been friends forever discuss sex, girlfriends, customers, and Star Wars.

RecommendationRent Soon!
DirectorKevin Smith
WriterKevin Smith
Movie Rating7
Transfer Quality6
Overall Rating6
Formats
  • Letterbox

Clerks” is one of Kevin Smith’s earliest movies. It is his first “big break”, and was followed by Mallrats and then Chasing Amy. Apparently there’s some movie called “Dogma” which came out this year or will come out, which also includes much of the cast from Clerks.

The movie was shot on a budget—mostly financed by credit cards and insurance money. The convenience store was the place where Kevin Smith actually worked, and he only shot while the store was closed. That’s why the shutters are stuck closed in the movie: because if they were open, you’d see that it was always night.

This is a very good movie that really shows what can be done on a low budget with no sets and only a few actors. The story is pretty simple: Dante Hicks gets called into work at the convenience store on his day off. It’s a stupid, meaningless job and he’d much rather be off playing neighborhood hockey. His closest friend works in the video rental store across the street, owned by the same person. So, during the day they talk about sex, customers, and Star Wars. Dante is also involved with a girlfriend and an ex-girlfriend. And Kevin Smith plays a drug dealer who sets up shop outside the store.

The movie alternates between natural, believable dialogue and outrageous slapstick. But the dialogue is believable for young adults, which makes it pretty outrageous for older adults who forget how they talked to each other way back when. (“Raw and unfiltered”, one reviewer described it.) This is the first Kevin Smith movie I’ve seen, and I now plan to see more. The naturalness of the dialogue extends all the way to body movement: these folks are either all very good actors, or Kevin Smith is a pretty incredible director, or some combination. Even during the slapstick, the performances are almost always very natural.

There are all of four locations in “Clerks”: the front of the convenience store where Dante works, the video store where his friend Randall works, the rooftop of the convenience store where they play hockey, and the funeral parlor they get kicked out of. (Probably the least believable part of the movie, thankfully kept offscreen and left to our imaginations. The reason it was kept offscreen was that they didn’t have permission to use the funeral parlor!) Most of the action takes place in the convenience store.

Life Questions: Dante doesn’t know what he wants to do; Randall doesn’t care what he wants to do, as long as it involves annoying the customers; Dante’s girlfriend Veronica wants Dante to go back to college; Dante’s ex-girlfriend Caitlin wants to have sex, though she’ll probably become a nun if she ever shows up in any other Kevin Smith movies (you’ll see why). In the end, Dante makes a decision and Randall screws it up. (There! The butler did it!) A hell of a lot of fun on the ride.

The DVD is also a nice package. It includes a “director’s commentary”. It was supposed to be a group commentary, a whole crapload of people were there, but they could only afford one microphone and Kevin Smith hogged it. Jason Mewes (Jay) might have been able to steal it away but Jason was passed out on the floor drunk and only surfaced to make the occasional deeply philosophical comment. Also present were Scott Mosier (two customers and a mourner), Walter Flanagan (animator, and four customers), Vincent Pereira (one customer and a goalie), Brian O’Halloran (Dante), Malcolm Ingram (Film Threat), Jim Jacks (nobody), and Ed Hapstak (Sanford and a mourner). Some of the occasionally made comments during the movie, but they rarely got the microphone, making their comments hard to hear.

They recorded the commentary during the filming of Mallrats, which apparently held most of the cast from Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused”, but I digress. Jim Jacks was one of the producers of Mallrats. It was undoubtedly the end of a long day. Jason was passed out, apparently right next to (or underneath?) Kevin Smith, and Kevin was very mean to him! Bad, bad director.

While the credits were playing on the videotape they were watching, they noticed a mistake. “Big problem”. “Actually, it won’t be like that,” said Kevin. “What?” “Well, I’d imagine they’d fix it.” The “big problem” was never fixed and is on the DVD.

It’s an interesting commentary despite the problems. It gives more info on the alternate ending, and why it was replaced. The original ending, well, pretty much sucked. It had little to do with the movie and didn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. It seemed to mostly be an attempt to put a definite ending on a nicely meandering story. Also, the movie is broken up in parts, separated by ‘flashcards’ of emotion-words. It was originally going to be about “life in hell”, each flashcard displaying one of the levels of hell from Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. This is probably why the lead character’s name is “Dante”…

Kevin Smith also directed a music video for Soul Asylum, “Can’t Even Tell”. It was a very good job of taking the movie concepts and putting them in a three-minute video.

All in all, I recommend at least renting this DVD.

Recommendation: Rent Soon!

DirectorKevin Smith
WriterKevin Smith
ActorsBrian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitleEnglish
Special FeaturesCommentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Music Video
More links

If you enjoyed Clerks…

If you enjoy Jason Mewes, you might also be interested in Mallrats.

If you enjoy Kevin Smith, you might also be interested in Mallrats.