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WEINSTEIN COMPANY

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Kevin Smith
Cast:
Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Trevor Fehrman, Rachel Larratt, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Shannon Larratt, Jason Lee, Ben Affleck
Writing Credits:
Kevin Smith

Tagline:
No Experience Necessary.

Synopsis:
The sequel to the 1994 indie hit picks up 10 years later. We find that Dante (O'Halloran) and Randal (Anderson) have grown up from lazy 20-something slobs to become lazy 30-something slobs. But when the Quick Stop burns down and they get new jobs at a joint called Mooby's, they're forced to confront the fact that maybe they're not making the most out of their lives. Gee, ya think?

Box Office:
Budget
$5 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.061 million on 2150 screens.
Domestic Gross
$24.138 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 97 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 11/28/2006

Bonus:
DVD One
• Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Smith, Producer Scott Mosier and Director of Photography Dave Klein
• Audio Commentary with Director Kevin Smith, Producer Scott Mosier and Actors Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran and Jennifer Schwalbach
• Unused Podcast Commentary with Director Kevin Smith, Producer Scott Mosier and Actor Jeff Anderson
• Introduction with Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
• Deleted Scenes
• “A Closer Look at Interspecies Erotica” Featurette
DVD Two
• “Back to the Well: Clerks II” Documentary
• Blooper Reel
• “Train Wrecks: Video Production Diaries”
Clerks II Soundtrack Promotion


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Clerks II (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 8, 2007)

When a successful artist produces work that differs from his/her/their bread and butter and it fails, that artist often will “return to the well” for the follow-up. Look at U2. 1997’s Pop wasn’t really a flop, but it didn’t live up to expectations and it seemed to alienate more than a few listeners. As a result, the band went back to a more traditional U2 sound for 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind and found themselves re-embraced by fans.

The same appears to be true for filmmaker Kevin Smith. After 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, he essentially kissed off those characters and all the others who made him famous. From there he went for a more “adult” flick, 2004’s Jersey Girl. While I may equivocate on Pop’s status as a flop, Jersey merits no such waffling. Critics disliked it; the flick earned a weak 42% score at Rotten Tomatoes. Moviegoers avoided it; Jersey earned only $25 million, a figure typical of Smith’s modest standards but low for one with as much publicity and hype around it. (Remember the Jennifer Lopez/Ben Affleck tryst?) And the usual Smith fans mostly hated it.

After that trifecta of failure, Smith regrouped and went back to the source: a sequel to his seminal 1994 indie hit Clerks. That’s the one on which he made his name, and 12 years later, it remains probably his most popular flick. (I prefer 1997’s Chasing Amy myself.)

Clerks II revisits the lives of its two leads: convenience store clerk Dante Hicks (Bryan O’Halloran) and video store drone Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson). Randal’s slacker idiocy alters their lives when he inadvertently burns down the building that houses both their places of employment.

In need of work, the two pals – now well into their thirties, by the way – grab jobs at fast food chain Mooby’s. The flick picks up with them there a year later and greets Dante’s last day. Engaged to the controlling Emma Bunting (Jennifer Schwalbach), he plans to move to Florida to run one of her dad’s car washes.

So for once, sad-sack Dante’s stagnant life seems to be moving forward. However, matters don’t stay that simple. Randal’s not too happy that his best pal’s abandoning him, and Dante shows an attachment toward Mooby’s manager Becky Scott (Rosario Dawson), though he denies it. The movie follows Dante’s last day at work and all the complications that ensue. And of course, you’ll get plenty from shiftless drug-dealers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith).

All of that offers a sketch of the flick’s main story, but the plot remains pretty extraneous here. The tale exists essentially as a framework around which Smith can toss out gags – plus lots and lots of never-ending scenes of verbal shenanigans. Actually, matters get more substantial during the film’s third act; at that point, the melodrama of Dante’s complications dominates.

Some will view this emphasis on Dante’s adulthood and choices as a good thing since they reflect maturity on Smith’s part. This is true, and if he achieved that side of things in a more satisfying manner, I’d agree. However, the focus on Dante’s goals and ambitions never gels. Those elements feel disconnected from much of the rest of the movie and don’t mesh together well.

The original Clerks succeeded due to its grand sense of banality. It didn’t attempt to tell a story that reflected much beyond a day in the life of some slackers. Sure, it dealt with their overall ambitions, but that side of things became submerged beneath the general celebration of the nothingness that made up its characters’ lives.

Again, on paper, I should applaud Smith’s decision to give Clerks II a broader focus, but I don’t think it works. Smith wants to have his cake and eat it too, so the scope undercuts the material. The world of Clerks doesn’t leave much room for emotional melodrama, and the integration of these elements never feels anything other than awkward.

Clerks II often feels like imitation Smith to me. It comes across as something created by a wannabe and doesn’t live up to Smith’s usual standards. The film is moderately entertaining and it provokes a few good laughs, but overall it seems kind of sad. The movie strikes me as Smith’s self-conscious attempt to recapture his muse, but all we find is warmed-over Mewes.


The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus A

Clerks II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 5:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie presented a consistently satisfying transfer.

Sharpness was good. I noticed no instances of softness to mar the flick, as it always seemed crisp and well-defined. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to appear, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws also stayed away, as the movie suffered from no specks, marks or other defects.

Colors were the only questionable part of the transfer, as they seemed rather pale and submerged under the movie’s overblown, high contrast look. However, this came across as a production choice, not as a problem with the presentation. Blacks were dark and firm, while shadows seemed clear and smooth. Overall, this was a satisfying picture.

Should you expect a slam-bang spectacular from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Clerks II? Nope, as it stayed with an extremely subdued soundfield. Speech dominated, as dialogue was easily the most important aspect of the mix. Music and environmental elements also appeared but didn’t play hugely significant roles. They broadened the package to a degree, however, and opened up matters in a natural and satisfying manner.

Audio quality was quite good. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other issues connected to the lines. Effects were a minor concern but appeared accurate. Music worked well, as the tunes sounded lively and dynamic. All of the elements boasted solid bass response. Though the flick sounded good, the bland soundfield left this one as a “B”.

The two-DVD set comes packed with extras. On Disc One, we find three separate running, screen-specific commentaries. For the first, we hear from director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and director of photography Dave Klein. All three sit together for what they tout as a “technical commentary”. That means they discuss subjects such as sets and location, visual design, cinematography, and related issues.

That sounds like it could be dry, and indeed, this is a more low-key commentary than the others. However, it seems nearly impossible for Smith to be boring, and he interacts well with his long-time pals and collaborators. They delve into the technical issues well and make sure that we remain awake and interested along the way. Indeed, the piece moves surprisingly briskly and turns into an enjoyable and informative chat.

In the second commentary, we get Smith, Mosier and actors Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran and Jennifer Schwalbach. All seven sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. They get into characters and performances, how the roles reflect the actors, other aspects of the participants’ careers, and scene specifics.

Much of the material remains anecdotal. We learn about romantic trysts on the set and get some impressions of a few conflicts. We also hear general reflections about the movie and the experiences. This all comes across as chatty and engaging, with plenty of good humor to keep us involved.

Finally, we locate the “Unused Podcast Commentary” with Smith, Mosier and Anderson. This was designed for fans to download and listen to as they watched Clerks II in the theaters. Cinema owners put the kibosh on that idea, so we get it here instead.

The track looks at Smith’s decision to revive the “series” and various connected issues. We hear about bringing everyone back on board and attached qualms along with story concepts and changes. Smith discusses writing the script and we also get notes about new cast members, performance issues, sets and locations, and scene specifics.

Of the three commentaries, the “podcast” probably proves the most satisfying. It covers the production’s nuts and bolts well and remains consistently engaging. All three succeed, but this one is the most interesting and stimulating. Inevitably it repeats some material from the first two, but it’s usually fresh and fun.

By the way, if you choose to listen to all three tracks, I’d recommend you do it in reverse order. Start with the “podcast” and then do the actors’ commentary before you finish with the technical discussion. I think that’s the most logical way to view the production.

If desired, you can watch the flick with an Introduction by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier. The four-minute and 38-second clip includes comments about what to expect from the set’s extras as well as some random remarks about Smith’s sex life and whatnot. It’s typically entertaining.

25 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 36 minutes, 31 seconds. If you add an optional intro from Smith and Mosier, we end up at 38:23. Although I like to offer the names of the added scenes, this set doesn’t label them very well, so that becomes impractical. The sheer volume also would make such an act tedious.

Most of the clips provide minor extensions to existing sequences. That means a lot of the 36:31 running time repeats material from the finished film. Despite those redundant elements, some good bits pop up here. “Sex Nuts and Retard Strong” is the most significant as it shows a car-based conversation in which Randal comes up with the possibility that Dante might accidentally impregnate his mother. We also get a long improv reel from Wanda Sykes and Earthquake. It’s a nice collection of clips.

A featurette entitled A Closer Look at Interspecies Erotica goes for eight minutes, 59 seconds and offers remarks from actors Zak Knutson and Rosario Dawson. Knutson dominates as he chats about his part and its challenges. This is an insubstantial piece but it becomes moderately interesting.

Look and you’ll find at least one Easter Egg on the first disc. From the second page of the “Special Features” menu, highlight “Play Introduction” and click right. Press enter to watch a 70-second snippet in which Smith tries to “close the Askewniverse Bible”. A scene at the end of Strike Back used this prop to imply there’d be no more adventures set in that universe, and Smith attempts to really finish off the series here – maybe.

DVD One opens with a few ads. We get clips for Fan Boys, Unknown, School for Scoundrels, Now You Know and Feast.

As we shift to DVD Two, we open with a documentary called Back to the Well: Clerks II. With optional Smith/Mosier intro, this piece lasts one hour, 30 minutes and 10 seconds. We find notes from Smith, Mosier, Mewes, O’Halloran, Anderson, Schwalbach, Fehrman, Klein, Knutson, former Miramax Films co-head of production Jon Gordon, 1st assistant editor Elliot Greenberg, and actors Rosario Dawson, Wanda Sykes, and Earthquake.

“Well” looks at the decision to revisit the Clerks universe and the influences that led to the flick. From there we go through the nuts and bolts of getting the cast back on board, writing the script and dealing with the studio, reactions to the sequel concept, and bringing in new actors. The program then moves through rehearsals, details of the actual production, camerawork and Klein’s return to the fold, Mewes’ attempts to deal with his substance abuse, editing, early screenings, the sound mix, going to Cannes, and the flick’s full release.

After three audio commentaries, it becomes inevitable that “Well” would duplicate a fair amount of information we already know. However, it manages to creates plenty of opportunities for fresh details and benefits from the surfeit of behind the scenes footage. “Well” gives us a reasonably fresh perspective on Clerks II and definitely stands as a strong documentary.

Next comes a Blooper Reel. Including another optional Smith/Mosier intro, this one fills 29 minutes and 55 seconds. More isn’t necessarily better, as this compilation includes little more than the usual goofs and giggles. A few funny moments emerge, but mostly we get the same old nonsense.

Train Wrecks: Video Production Diaries splits into 10 chapters. If you factor in the inevitable Smith/Mosier intro and watch them via the “Play All” option, they go for a total of 51 minutes, two seconds. These originally appeared on the movie’s website. Plenty more of them showed up there, but Smith picked his 10 favorites to plop on the DVD.

What do the 10 “Wrecks” cover? We go through hairstyles for Jay and Silent Bob, the first day of the shoot, meeting the crew, Jason Lee’s “Tongue Song”, filming the Dante/Emma make-out scene, a screening with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, more from Cannes, creating the burning Quick Stop, the poster photography session, and a prank at the Quick Stop location.

The “Wrecks” vary from pretty good to pretty pointless. At the low end of the spectrum, the Cannes segment is absurdly self-congratulatory. The best segments come from the effects demonstration as well as the chat with Rodriguez and Tarantino. Though the “Wrecks” are hit or miss, they’re a nice addition to the package.

In addition to a Clerks II Soundtrack Promotion, we find another Easter Egg. Highlight “Play with Introduction…” under “Blooper Reel” and click to the right. Hit enter to see a two-minute and 24-second clip called “Hooray for Hollywood”. This is a faux-preview for The Passion of the Clerks. It’s interesting to see as it spoofs old-time promos.

An awkward combination of broad gross-out material and sappy sentimentality, Clerks II fails to live up to its predecessor. Though better produced in every way, it’s not 1/10th as clever or involving as the original, especially when it becomes way too melodramatic and like a soap opera. The DVD presents very good picture as well as perfectly satisfactory audio and a terrific roster of extras. Kevin Smith fans will glom onto this one, but others should pick out one of his other films instead.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2352 Stars Number of Votes: 17
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main