Clerks is probably on the unlikeliest franchises ever to come to screen. The first movie was a black and white indie hit that gathered a cult following on home video and paved the way for the View Askew Universe. A series of interconnecting movies long before Marvel did it. Writer, director and Silent Bob actor Kevin Smith made five movies ending with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, before trying his hand with a completely standalone movies. His first movie, Jersey Girl, bombed at the box office. This prompted him to turn back to the View Askew Universe with his first official sequel: Clerks II.
Clerks II was a return to form and his next movie, the standalone Zack and Miri Make a Porno, was yet another success. His next couple of movies failed at the box office and some of them were truly abysmal. 2016‘s Yoga Hosiers seemed to put the final nail into his coffin. Quite literally actually as Kevin Smith suffered a massive heart attack shortly after, which he miraculously survived. His new lease on life gave him a fresh perspective and also reinvigorated his movie making. He would fully immerse himself once more into his View Askew Universe but with a more adult approach. In 2019 he released Jay and Silent Bob Reboot and now he comes with Clerks III, his most heartfelt movie yet.
For Dante, Randal and Elias time seemingly has come to a standstill. They still work at the QuickStop Groceries they bought at the end of Clerks II. Life hasn’t been kind to Dante, as Becky (Rosario Dawson) died in between movies and now only appears in flashbacks and visions. Death is an important theme in Clerks III as Randal suffers the same kind of heart attack Kevin Smith himself had. Randal survives, but his new lease on life gives him a fresh perspective and he decides to make something out of life. More specifically: a movie about his life and he enlists his friends to make it with him.
As you can probably tell by the synopsis Clerks III is Kevin Smith’s most personal movie yet. He uses his traumatic life experience to revisit the start of his career 30 years ago. Clerks III is at the same time a making of Clerks as well as a thoughtful retrospective on life. It’s also a way for Smith to work once again with the people he has known his entire life.
Clerks III is also a movie that shows how much Smith has grown over the years. The previous two Clerks movies mostly revolved around pop-culture, drugs and sex jokes as well as the mundane lives of the titular clerks. While they haven’t been excised completely, Clerks III takes a more serious approach to the subject matter.
The tonal change of Clerks III might put some people off who would expect more of the same from the guy who wrote a whole monologue about the clit. But I genuinely liked this movie. In a time where every movie seems to be a part of a behemoth franchise and shot entirely in front of green screen, the small scale return to a convenience store in New Jersey feels like a warm bath.