When Kevin Smith was doing the press tour for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back in 2001, he made the point of saying the View Askewniverse was done, fin. Along with the fact that Jason Mewes' drug addiction was becoming more of an issue, it seemed like there was nothing else left to say. However, in 2005 Smith did find himself thinking that there was something more that could be said by Randal, Dante and gang, so he put together a script, a sequel no less, to the film that brought him into the consciousness. And on the seventh day, Clerks II was born.
The film is set in the present, as Dante (Brian O'Halloran) is still working at the Quick Stop, and one day he arrives to find the store going up in flames. Randal (Jeff Anderson) is still working at the video store, and discovers he might have been the cause of the arson. So the boys have to find new jobs, eventually winding up at Mooby's, Smith's Askew equivalent of a McDonalds. Dante is about to move to Florida with Emma (Smith's wife Jennifer Schwalbach), a woman who is the proverbial golden ring for Dante. He'll move out of Jersey, and have a new house and a new job waiting for him when they get down there and get married. However, something in Dante seems not right, like he's not convinced of this new stage of his life. Complicating matters for him is the fact that he hooked up one night with Becky (Rosario Dawson, Rent), his boss at Mooby's, and they've never really talked about it since, and Dante seems to have some feelings for her.
Mewes, who had cleaned himself up for the production and has remained sober to this day, returned as Jay, and Smith as Silent Bob, the drug dealers who move from outside the Quick Stop to outside Mooby's. They are both clean as a result of a court-imposed rehab program, and have found religion in the process. They still deal, but their customers appear to get a little bible thumping song and dance as a result. Anyway, one shouldn't try to figure it out anyway, you can't do a Clerks film without them, so this is the easiest way to get them there. And like the first Clerks film, the events of the day before Dante moving are shown at Mooby's, and occasionally those who come in and out of the establishment are highlighted. But two things can be gained from their presence this time. First, they're obviously more recognizable then the guys who were in the first film; Smith film alumni Ben Affleck (Chasing Amy) and Jason Lee (Mallrats) appear as customers among others, but second, they aren't given the "Randal Graves Class of Customer Appreciation" either, and that's for a reason. Randal doesn't know what to do and say to his friend who's leaving him. I think that Randal's spirit might have been beaten down through the years where he's not out to piss anyone off, but it's also not important for him to do anymore either. In one scene where he and Dante are in a car together, you can see that more important things are on his mind. He doesn't want to be the guy who's doing something meaningless at 50, but he's starting to feel it.
And that idea within Randal's character is smartly done by Smith, but the other thing that Smith does is elucidate on the feelings of two male friends who've known each other for years. Randal does just that, he gets to the point where he tells Dante what they should do, and tells Dante what he should do with the Becky/Emma situation. By making the bold step, and assuring Dante that he'll be right there with him, Randal and Dante leave a footprint in the world, which is nice, but watching Randal discuss his thoughts about Dante might be the nicest of all. Nervous jokes on homosexuality aside, it might be the best thing Smith's done in a movie. I should mention that Randal's speech is done in a jail cell with Dante, Jay and Silent Bob present, after the boys watch a sex show inspired by Bachelor Party. Yeah, NOW I know this is a Kevin Smith film. But while the first Clerks film shows two people who reflect on what's in front of them, this one has one of those people reflecting on perhaps being "forgotten," a feeling that many could identify with. The first film might be punk rock, but the second is introspective and more impacting, and that's a testament to Smith.
The Blu-ray Disc:
In 1.85:1 widescreen, Clerks II uses the AVC MPEG-4 codec and the first thing you'll notice is that the film looks a little pushed in the whites. But then you remember that Smith and cinematographer Dave Klein haven't shot a lot of material that requires a multidimensional feel, it's bound to look flat and boring, much like the recent Zack and Miri Make a Porno did. Detail is lacking in the foreground and background, but at least the Mooby's purple and yellows appear fine without oversaturation or noise in the image. The transitions to and from the black and white in the film are also decent and the Clerks. nod is done rather nicely, and overall you won't be disappointed by the look of the film, especially when you realize it's intentional.
You get a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless audio track to go with the English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, and as usual I went for the lossless. What I was surprised by is how subtle the soundstage is. When Elias (Randal and Dante's co-worker at Mooby's, played by Trevor Fehrman) discusses Pillowpants, the rear speakers quietly introduce a score to the dialogue that's eerie, no doubt to go along with Randal's amazement at this opinion. When Dante and Emma are outside making out, cars can be heard going by in both rear channels that I've got. Musically, the film is more active than Zack and Miri, and the songs are clear as a bell. Dialogue requires little to no user adjustment and sounds fine, and the result is a lossless audio that does the film justice.
Everything from the HD DVD has been brought over to the Blu-ray release, which is nice because there's a ton of it. No less than three commentaries grace the first of two discs, starting with a commentary by Smith, Mosier and the cast (Anderson, O'Halloran, Mewes, Fehrman and Schwalbach). Oddly enough, this one is the most nostalgic, waxing on the differences between making the first film and making this one, but there's also a bit of production stuff recalled by all parties. Some scene-specific information is asked of the cast by Smith, including the Jay "tuck" and other items, and the new cast is asked about their thoughts on working with the longtime actors. It's a fun and enjoyable track. The second track with Smith, Mosier and Klein is the technical track, as Klein talks about lenses and film stocks employed for shooting the film. He also recalls how he lit particular sequences, and the practical/CG material is identified. The look of the film is talked about and compared to other View Askew films, and the discussion on Klein's involvement in previous films is discussed with a decent amount of candor, with Klein also chiming in with what he did in the interim. It's an excellent track for the film students in the house. The final track with Smith, Mosier and Anderson was one that could be downloaded to an MP3 and played during the film if one was so inclined, and this is also a fun commentary, with Smith discussing what was in earlier drafts and recalling casting meetings. Discussions with Harvey Weinstein are recalled also, and Smith also talks about the early opposition to the film from the online community. Yep, three out of three good tracks right here. From there, a slew of deleted scenes, 25 if I did my math right (38:24) are included, but many are alternate takes, with a lot more of Jay and Silent Bob in them, including an extended dance to "Goodbye Horses." Wanda Sykes and Earthquake, who appear in cameo roles as an offended couple, steal this segment with ad libs that will make you bust a gut. Finally, "A Closer Look at Interspecies Erotica" (8:58) includes the stylings of the man who became the Sexy Stud to Kinky Kelly, and I think I'll leave it at that for you to discover.
Moving onto Disc Two, we start with "Back to The Well" (1:26:53), which seems to cover Clerks II from the time Smith said during J&SBSB publicity that he wasn't going to do any more films set in the Askewniverse. Smith and longtime collaborator/producer Scott Mosier discuss the reason why Jersey Girl tanked; they didn't get a chance to shoot with the crew they wanted, the Bennifer/Gigli impact, etc. Mosier was so affected by the lambasting he decided to drop off the grid, so to speak, and while this was going on, Smith was offered the Green Hornet film. Smith decided to drop it and work on Clerks II, which made Mosier ecstatic, but Anderson was skittish on the idea until seeing the script. Selling the story to Miramax and to Harvey Weinstein is talked about, along with the studio's insistence on a name actress to sell for the film (hence Dawson). From there, the preproduction commences, and the rehearsals, which were filmed and some are included, and Smith discusses his process for them too. Shooting is shown, and Mewes, who was not going to be part of the process initially, had sobered up and he talks about it in plainspoken detail, which was interesting. Some of the scenes in the film like the Donkey Show and some others are covered, and once production wrapped, the screening process begun, and Smith's screening at Cannes being the one covered in a lot of detail. Seeing his despair here was interesting, considering how warmly the film was received. Premiere weekend is shown, and the piece wraps with everyone's thoughts. It's a really good and detailed look at the production, and worthy of buying the disc (if you haven't already) as is.
But wait, there's more! A blooper reel (27:37!) is next, and the thing is so exhaustive it's not even funny. But they're legit bloopers, like an actor screwing up and realizing he did and starting again, with little laughing or breakdowns following. The footage appears to be chronological from the production schedule, but this is more completist than funny per se, so there's that. "Train Wrecks" (48:57) are the ten best video diaries (chosen from over 70) covering the film's production. It covers things like Smith and Mewes getting their hair done for the film, to Mewes interviewing some of the cast and crew. Smith screened the film for friends Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, and that feedback session is shown. Some more of the post-production is shown, like the visual effects, but the publicity shots, press junkets and other publicity is also highlighted too. Both this and "Back to The Well" are as exhaustive as you're going to get. There's even a special on the film that aired on VH1 (19:32) which includes the requisite cast and crew thoughts on the cast, crew and material, and some of the memorable material in said feature.
Clerks II brings back the guys who started it all in the world of Kevin Smith films, and it's got plenty of laughs and cringe-worthy moments. But it's also got the story of two guys who are reflecting on the "responsible" part of life they're about to face, and they're apprehensive and a little scared even, and that tenderness, the willingness to show their vulnerability, that makes the film a worthy successor to the first film. Technically the film has some surprises but doesn't achieve too much, and the extras are so exhaustive, it wouldn't surprise me if Smith's cell phone number was included as an easter egg somewhere. Definitely recommended for everyone, and a must-own for Smith fans.