Sunday, August 06, 2006

You Guys Wanna Go See a Shitty Movie?

Clerks II sucked. That's the thrust of this blog entry in a nutshell.

I admit that I may be a little biased on this, given my personal belief that Kevin Smith hasn't made a decent movie since Chasing Amy; but, in my own defense, I went into it with an open mind. In fact, I went into it expecting something like the first Clerks movie: a movie that was good for what it was. It didn't have to be a cinematic masterpiece. It didn't have to alter my perception of the universe. Just some good, old-fashioned, lowbrow junkfood for the brain, that's all I was asking...Maybe that was asking too much.

Picture this. You're Kevin Smith. Your films and creativity have been on a downward slope for about 7 years or so. With Dogma you tried to tackle spiritual issues and found yourself in way over your head (who could honestly watch the ending of that movie and think anything besides, "Wow, this is really fucking stupid"?) Then came Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, a movie that was supposed to be an "in-joke" between you and your fans, but instead came off like something a bunch of annoying pothead teenagers would put together if they had the money. And finally there was Jersey Girl, the sappy "I just got married and became a father" movie starring Ben Affleck alongside some precocious little girl...In the words of Keith Sisson, "Man! I can't WAIT to not go see that!" Three successive failures. Absolutely no growth in your filmmaking abilities or subject material. Artistically speaking, you have accomplished nothing. So what do you do? You go back to the beginning and remind people that, once upon a time, you made a pretty good movie.

Clerks, man. That's one of those movies that every teenage fan of indie/weird cinema absolutely worshipped back in the 90s. I remember the first time I saw it, how I marvelled at the simplicity of it all. It was so cool to think that some guy - Kevin Smith - had gotten together with a bunch of his friends and made a movie about how much it sucks to work with the public: Annoying customers. Stupid questions. Being called in on your day off. It was all there - pure, plain, and simple. Throw in a few mock-intelligent conversations about Star Wars and relationships and we had all the makings of an auteur. Kevin Smith had style and flair, and, in my opinion, could easily have become the New Jersey version of Woody Allen.

Ten years later, we have Clerks II. Most of the old characters have returned, only now they seem - dare I say it? - a little too old to be where they are. The way I see it, a guy in his early-to-mid-20s hates his job and customers, and it's relatable. Once he's a full-blown adult, though, it starts to seem sad and clinically dysfunctional.

In Clerks, the characters of Jay and Silent Bob were raw and believable - the kinds of guys you'd expect to see standing around outside a convenience store all day. In the new movie, they've been drastically reduced to self-parody. A perfect example: in the first movie, Jay starts to say a line and then stops halfway through it and says, "Wait, I fucked up"...It was so perfectly executed that I took it for a genuine dialogue mistake that had been left in the movie. (Because movies are entirely staged, the only things that seem real are the mistakes.) Only later did I learn that that was in the script. In the new movie, everything is really obviously staged. The characters and situations are so over-the-top whacky that they don't seem real at all. There's even a big, unnecessary lip-sync-and-dance sequence right in the middle of the movie - the kind of thing that used to seem really funny when Matt, Mike, Daniel, and I were 15*. Gone are the strange little side characters like Snowball and Cousin Olaf (Kevin Smith managed to make a nod towards just about everything in the first movie except "Berserker".) Gone are the wordy, pseudo-psychological conversations about the events of the day. Put simply, the whole thing is very desperate and very empty (with the noteworthy exception of Randall describing the Lord of the Rings trilogy.)

I guess it's true what they say. For most artists, the early work is the good stuff. It's raw and full of passion and genuine self-expression. After that, they get older and domesticated and start taming their passions. Before long, they're producing mediocre crap and gratuitous sequels. Like a boxer past his prime, they just don't know when to throw in the towel. And so, a note to creative people everywhere: when the only material you've got left is a re-hash of the stuff you did a decade ago, it might be time to pass the torch to a new generation. That's my two cents.

Thanks for the memories, Mr.Smith. But please, don't make a Clerks 3.

* See also "J singing 'How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?'", "Matt singing 'I'm Free'", "Mike screaming along to Reverend", and "Daniel singing 'Amish Paradise'"...we were predecessors to the whole "Numa Numa" thing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree. Although I think you are totally right in the thought of why does Smith have to pull an old movie to get good material and how that is saying, "Hi, I'm Kevin Smith, I can't relate well with my fans the way I used to so I'm going to make a tried and true movie to get my fan base back." But overall, I laughed throughout the movie and got what I was looking for. Humor, raunchy behavior and inside jokes that made me feel like I was watching home movies of friends.
I also liked Dogma a lot although I agree, his best flicks were the first three. For the most part, I think he lacked really smart dialogue. That is what made the first three so ingenious.
I also hate Rosario Dawson and think that role could have been filled by a more interesting strong female.
As for the Lamb Dance, come on, it was the lamb dance. That's a trip. And I suppose smith was doing all of this for a good cause. He said he'd let Jason play Jay again if he stayed off drugs, but that doesn't mean it's a great movie.
For what it's worth, I haven't heard a whole theater laugh like a soundtrack in a long time and Clerks II definitly made the whole crown giddy.


4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MAN... I have struggled with wanting to see this movie. Due to laziness and a disire not to climb the steps in my townhouse...I have watched clerks at least 50% of the days in the last year. Real talk. So, this came about and I'm eager. but,the notion of them being like 20 years out of high school and just not doing well at all is just a bit much. So I haven't seen it. But, all who share my love of his films agree with you on it and I'm so so very scared to see it.
I must defend Dogma and Jersey Girl though. Dogma is a movie made for people like me...very strong in the belief of God and Jesus and the story. People who have faith but choose not to bother anyone else with it and are able to look at Christianity and see the bad but still love the good. Sometimes being a Christian is embarassing cuz of the nonsense done in the name of the religion. He really put a lot of love and maturity into that one while stradling the line very well between drama and high school humor. But the ending did suck....i think he had no idea how to effectively wrap that one up. Actually, he never knows how to end it well, other than Chasing Amy which is the cinematic portrait of young male insecurity. And I just don't like Affleck at all. Other than Dazed and Confused. Then you have Jersey Girl. I'm a student of marketing and the failure of this movie is bad marketing from day one. First, the acting is horrible. Affleck just got no sympathy from me. The lil girl overracted in such a fashion as to suggest she was trying to be campy. But, the idea was good. Just not carried off well. But, there is a good movie there if it were just left up to him and not been a studio movie. I think Clerks II was just a safe thing for him to do...i really do hope he gets back on track though. I think he needs to take a chance and step out his comfort zone. Way out. I always say would be cool if he did a coming of age story about young black guys. I think if he got a good script and went to shoot it and saw it he'd do Spielberg with the Color Purple. He changed a lot of the movie from the book...but he got it...he saved the point of the story which would have been ignored if they kept the lesbian stuff in.


11:02 PM  

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