Mimsy Were the Borogoves

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

Clerks 2

Jerry Stratton, July 21, 2006

I’m probably at Comic-Con as you read this and won’t be able to see Clerks 2 again to verify that it hasn’t significantly changed since last December. I am, however, free to make my review public, so here it is. I reserve the right to make changes after I see the movie again—and I will see it again, if not this weekend then next week. See you on the con floor.

The movie was pretty damn tight when we saw it in December, and already funny as hell. If you’ve enjoyed Kevin Smith’s movies in the past, you’re going to enjoy this one. It is filled with Smith’s great dialogue and character interaction. It is also filled with what he refers to as his “dick and fart jokes”. If Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back was the culmination of his satirical content, Clerks 2 contains the culmination of his shock content. The shock value of some scenes was so extreme that he thought they’d have to release the movie unrated.

The rumor is that several press reviewers walked out at a crucial scene during the press showing. I won’t disclose that scene here, but let’s say that no donkeys were hurt in the making of this film. Even Scott McCloud would be amazed at what you can imply with the right hand gestures and facial expressions. I suspect that it was Zak Knutson’s eyes that sent the aging review crowd scurrying for cover.

There are two things I really want to comment on, that were pleasant surprises to me. First, when the movie goes straight from the fire at the Quick Stop to the duo working at a Mooby’s fast-food restaurant, the abrupt change surprised me. Coming in knowing that this was about the Clerks characters ten years later finally deciding what to do with their lives, I expected the fire to be the catalyst to their doing so.

Instead the abrupt switch to them working at Mooby’s in the wonderful Mooby uniforms tells us it is going to be a lot harder for these Leonardans to change their spots. I enjoyed that. I thought the movie would be about their zany attempts to get a job. Instead, it’s about the general doom and futility that fills their lives. More in between the fire and Mooby’s, even with a montage, would have weakened that sense of futility.

The next one comes with a bit of a spoiler, so I’m going to put them behind my new spoiler-hider. Just move the mouse over this text to display the rest of the review.

Most importantly, Dante’s girlfriend is not a jerk. It’s sad what happens to her. And, her story is not safely wrapped up as it would be in most other films. She doesn’t die, she doesn’t turn out to be an asshole, she doesn’t end up with Randall or dating Jason Lee. As happens to friends in real life, her story falls out of Dante’s life. This was important, because this is the fate that Randall wanted to avoid. He knew how easy it would be for him and Dante to simply fall away from each other.

In a lesser movie, Dante’s girlfriend would have already been cheating on him with his rich high school classmate, or would have somehow hooked up with him after the break-up, perhaps in the closing credits.

Compare, for example, with Art School Confidential. On the surface, and even under the surface, they’re very similar movies. Art School Confidential’s strength was in its dialogue. It was filled with pop references. It was hilariously funny at times. It even shared a connection with View Askew through actor Ethan Supplee. Supplee was great. In almost every scene he was in he made Art School Confidental better and funnier.

Ethan’s only scene that didn’t work was the Hollywood cliche that no one could have saved, The Unmasking. The hero’s rival must be Seriously Flawed, and must be unmasked in front of their mutual love interest. (They didn’t need to hammer Jonah’s being a cop home; they telegraphed that by making him look too much like Johnny Depp in 21 Jump Street.)

Halfway through Art School Confidential, it lost its way. Everything starts to slot into standard Hollywood clichés. Jerome’s success; the killer; his innocence; his love life. The ending was so clichéd that it was almost a send-up of itself. Whoever required the final scene, where Jerome and what’s-her-name kiss through prison glass, should have been forced to kiss prison glass first themselves.

Some movies are so fearful of leaving the kind of “loose end” that Dante’s girlfriend represents that they would both showed that she was an asshole and they would have still paired her off with Randall or someone else. People—especially women—cannot end a movie not dating someone. A woman without a man is not a closed equation in Hollywood.

Finally, the supporting cast is worth seeing in their own right. Trevor is an amazing actor. Rosario Dawson puts in an extremely natural performance.

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