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Laramie Movie Scope: Clerks II

Facing up to life, death and perversion in New Jersey

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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July 30, 2006 -- “Clerks II: The Second Coming” is a funny and unexpectedly sweet sequel to the low-budget hit “Clerks.” This film follows many of the same characters from the first film, made 12 years ago, including the two main convenience store clerks, Dante Hicks (played by Brian O'Halloran) and Randal Graves (played by Jeff Anderson). Both actors reprise their roles from the first film, as do drug dealers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (played by Kevin Smith, who also writes and directs the film). Like the first film, this movie is laced with profanities and graphic discussions about various sexual practices. The pièce de résistance of this layer of vulgarity is a sort of bachelor party bestiality show with the euphemistic description of “inter-species erotica.”

This fondness for obscenities and vulgarity is just a front for a more serious discussion about a kind of mid-life crisis. Kevin Smith is fond of obscenities, but doesn't really need them for either humor or shock value, even though he seems to think he does. Smith (“Dogma,” “Chasing Amy,” “Mallrats” and “Jersey Girl”) is a gifted writer of dialogue and the discussions among the various characters are fascinating. The Tarantino-like discussions range from fan-boy talk about Star Wars Vs. Lord of the Rings, to the definition of racial slurs, to relationships, to what to do with the remainder of their seemingly dead-end lives. These discussions erupt between Dante and Randal, between Dante and his boss, Becky (Rosario Dawson of “Sin City”) and between Randal and another fast food employee, a sort of Christian nerd, Elias (Trevor Fehrman). Another main character is Emma Bunting (Jennifer Schwalbach), Dante's fiancée.

The acting is good throughout and there are some good cameos, including the razor-tongued Wanda Sykes (“Monster-in-law”), Ben Affleck (“The Sum of all Fears”) and Jason Lee (“My Name is Earl” TV show). Sykes gets into a memorable argument with Randal Graves over the racial slur of “porch monkeys.” Graves, it seems, is unaware that the term is insulting to blacks. This whole discussion about censorship is a favorite theme of Kevin Smith's. He likes to push the envelope, and does so here again.

Dante has made the decision to marry Emma and move away to Florida. This decision bothers both Randal and Becky, neither of whom wants Dante to go. As the time for Dante's departure draws near, Dante seems less sure of his decision. He feels that his life is going nowhere and his marriage and trip to Florida (where he will manage a car wash owned by Emma's father) is a chance for him to start over. Another change happens when the Quick Stop convenience store where Dante and Randal have worked for years is gutted by a fire. The time seems ripe for Dante to go, but yet something is pulling at his heart, telling him to stay in New Jersey. Some final confrontations finally settle the matter precipitously. While some of the jokes are needlessly gross, it is a funny film with a lot of heart. It rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2006 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)