Thirteen films into his career, Kevin Smith still finds himself delivering a film as lazy and amateur as Clerks III. Once upon a time, Kevin Smith was an exciting indie voice who had something to say in his own unique scatterbrain f-bomb dropping way. From Clerks to Chasing Amy to Dogma, topics such as love and faith sat comfortably beside diatribes about Star Wars and oral sex.
Somewhere, there was a regression. Smith found his niche as a fanboy populist in the geek worlds of superheroes and science fiction. Gone was the chance for an exciting young filmmaker to mature his talents and cinematic vision. Clerks III is an attempt to rebuild that potential, yet it only serves as another reminder that Smith’s days as a must-watch filmmaker are behind him.
The central theme of Clerks III is death, which is fitting since the film lacks a heartbeat. Set once again in the New Jersey-based Quick Stop convenience store, Clerks III reintroduces us to Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall (Jeff Anderson), co-owners of the Quick Stop still stuck in a Gen Z existential funk. When Randall survives what should have been a fatal heart attack, he embraces his second chance at life by making a movie based on his experiences working as a convenience clerk. Cue a never-ending series of meta gags that run throughout the movie.
Dante, the more sensible and interesting of the two characters, is dealing with his own issues in mortality. Where there are moments in Dante’s story that are moving, they are often undercut by Smith’s insistence on having his characters spout dialogue saved for a 13-year-old who just watched a Chris Rock special.
Speaking of foul-mouthed 13-year-olds, the return of Smith’s comedic duo Jay and Silent Bob (played by Jason Mewes and Smith) reminds me of a quote Smith gave while promoting Clerks II, in which he said that another movie featuring Jay and Silent Bob leaning against a convenience store would be “sad.” Yes, Kevin, it sure is.
Smith’s own recovery from a near-fatal heart attack inspired the creation of Clerks III. Messages of “creating your own story” and “you only have one life” is all well and good, yet when it comes to Clerks III and Smith’s de-evolution as a filmmaker, there is a feeling that Smith is all too content with spinning his wheels rather than moving forward. Keeping in mind that the mantra of Clerks III is to live your life with the knowledge that it is precious, don’t waste it watching Clerks III.