on August 4, 2006
If you like Kevin Smith, you like Clerks. I realize that every rule has millions of exceptions, but Smiths low budget indie feature from 1994 reveals everything great (and not so great) about this director/writer/actor (if you call Silent Bob acting).
Clerks came out during an early 90's time-period when culture was taking a step sideways instead of forward. A generation brought up with 80's hair metal, Eddie Murphy movies and The Cosby Show wanted something different. Instead of moving forward, our culture wanted smarter versions of the established entertainment, music fans embraced Nirvana and Pearl Jam, television watchers tuned into Seinfeld and film embraced new visions from the likes of Quentin Tarantino. Enter Kevin Smith into this time with his no budget masterpiece that probably wouldn't have been seen if it were made five years later.
What made Clerks stand out was its revelation that a great script is all you need to make a great movie. You didn't enjoy Clerks because of its A- list actors, big budget action sequences or filmmaking tricks that director's greatly over hype; you liked Clerks because it was funny and relatable. Smith's writing captured the everyday feel of his early 20's life as his main characters Dante and Randal's shift at the Quick Stop and RST Video becomes an unexpectedly crazy journey. Dante's struggle with his inability to resolve the issues in his life is what lies at the heart of every great Kevin Smith film. Right up to Clerks II he is a master at writing a realistic interpretation of male insecurity. Dante and Randal both remain believable male characters even while revealing feelings that many males may never actually talk about. Randal becomes the voice of the audience watching the shenanigans of Dante's life unfold trying to make Dante realize his life is ultimately up to him, while cracking the comments and flipping the bird to his work commitments that both the audience and Dante envy.
The 10th Anniversary DVD holds up surprisingly well as the makers realized that most followers of Smith's had seen this film dozens of time (if not more). Instead of simply providing a nicer looking version of the original, the package contains two must haves for collectors. The first is the original version of Clerks that appeared at New York's Independent Feature Film Market, which started the ball rolling on Clerk's eventually being picked up by Miramax. The original version reveals the dark tone that Smith was originally going for an ending that reveals Dante's struggles to be very small in life's grand scheme (if you see it you'll understand). The other added element is The Snowball Effect, a documentary about the making of Clerks that takes you from Smith's humble beginnings in New Jersey to his the joy of his $27,000 flick being picked up. The documentary is as addictive as the original Clerks as the sheer audacity and long shot reality of Smith's venture, a young man mortgaging his future on a small flick, is an amazing feat to revisit.
With the release of Clerks II there might be more of an audience for Smith's original. If you wish to indulge in this deluxe package it is worth it, unless of course you are one of the million of exceptions to the originally stated rule.
on June 20, 2004
Clerks was a low-budget movie, lacks any special effects and was shot in black and white. That all works perfectly in this case though. Clever dialogue between the main characters and the wide variety of customers they encounter while at work make this movie very worthwhile seeing. No, there is no real plot but it surrounds Dante and Randall at work one day. Dante runs the convenience store on a day when he is supposed to be off, since his boss left town. Randall runs the crappy video store next door, but rarely stays there. He is usually in the store offending customers and it is just hilarious. For anyone who has ever had a job dealing with customers like that, you know how tempting it is to say what you want to the customers. Many humorous things go on in the store such as Randall selling cigarettes to a 5 year old, Dante and Randall attending a funeral only to knock over the casket within 5 minutes, and Dante closing the store to play hockey on the roof. There are so many classic lines in the movie such as the one we all know, "I'm not even supposed to be here today." When the two have a conversation about Star Wars with a customer, more like a serious discussion I was cracked up. So you have an everyday situation with believable things that happen between the workers and the customers, witty dialogue with many memorable lines ("This job would be great if it weren't for the f****** customers"), and to top it off a few great scenes with Jay and Silent Bob. This movie is not centered on those two, but Dante and Randall and the everyday battle with customers that will crack you up for sure. This is just an ordinary low-budget movie made great by the dialogue, but at the same time it is what a movie should be---entertaining. Kevin Smith has made some great movies, but this one is my favorite. It is an amazing movie considering Smith worked with so little money to make this great film. So you should watch this no matter what at least once. If you work in a store like Dante or a video store like Randall, I'm sure you will appreciate the humor in their way with saying what they want to customers even if it is offensive. It is a normal and believable situation that doesn't fail to entertain, and has everything you want to say to a customer but can't.
on April 1, 2003
Even though 'Clerks' will probably go down (amongst critics) as the best Kevin Smith film, I think there's much that can be brought up to argue that. Sure, the fact it was made for merely $27,000 and the fact that it's black & white make it impressive; seeing as how it became (is) so popular so effortlessly. But as attractive as it is for some people, it may not be as pleasing for others. I will say this from the start: Kevin Smith is my favorite director. And I think that's very true for many people; as his infamous character Silent Bob makes him more famous than directing probably ever will. I think there'll be a lot of "Kevin Smith fans" that won't appreciate his next movie, 'Jersey Girl' (out at the end of summer). Even though Kevin is my favorite director, he's not my favorite actor. He never talks; how can he be anyone's favorite actor? I think Silent Bob is so admired that it overshadows the fact that he's an inspired director. The simplicity of 'Clerks' makes this movie more than brilliant, in its entirety, but does not make it perfect (in the list of View Askew and/or Kevin Smith movies).
The characters of Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are probably the best character duo to appear in any movie. They are so incredibly different, yet they have almost too much in common for them to like each other. Bothersome or even everyday customers are something that anyone who's worked behind a counter can relate to. The way that Randal deals with those customers is particularly enjoyable; yet no one in their right mind would ever do the things he does (though we can still relate). Dante's troubles are brought out by Randal as the two contrast more and more as the movie goes on. The idea that the film's stupid or a funny-to-watch-when-you're-high-type movie is an ill-advised way to view it. The character's habits bring near perfection to the screen. However, the infamous roles of Jay and Silent Bob are rather weak. They're as funny as they come, but still a bit weak in comparison with the other parts. Now, when you watch movies like 'Dogma' or 'Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back', you can clearly see how Jason Mewes (and even Smith, himself) has matured as an actor. But nevertheless those infamous "dxck and fart jokes" still remain the same. The acting from the two girlfriends in the film (Marilyn Ghigliotti and Lisa Spoonauer) takes the cake here. They tackle the late-teen stereotypes with ease. Whether that was intended or not, it works wonders here. They probably make the movie watchable for girls; as 'Clerks' seems to be aimed, mainly, at the male audience. As I've hinted to, the development of Smith and his "team" have really progressed with each of his six movies. That is the main reason I cite 'Clerks' as the weaker of the six. But for the type of movie this is: a slacker/deadbeat generation comedy, there is nothing better. This is no question a must-see movie for anyone and everyone out there. And although not everyone will enjoy it as much as I did (and many, many others), you can proudly say you watched it.
On my listmania list for my top 100 movies ever, 'Clerks' sits nonchalantly at around #37; yet it moves up every time I rewrite the list (Mallrats is #1; J&SBSB is #6; Dogma is #8; Amy is #22). Some people might say that too much money can ruin someone. But in Kevin Smith's case, it only makes him better. There has been a constant increase in his films with the acting, directing, and design. Do not let my review lead you to believe this movie is bad. It's not at all. And it's only weak in the universe of View Askew; overall it's noteworthingly intelligent. I give it a strong 4.25 stars, deservingly, as it is better than just a plain 4-star rank. People who give this five stars and just say something to the effect of 'it's the coolest movie because Jay and Silent Bob are hilarious' aren't really aware of what makes a true movie. If you like movies with promise and originality, then 'Clerks' will become an instant favorite of yours. And if you are a Kevin Smith "fan" and haven't seen this movie, you're not really a fan. This is where it all started; at a little convenience store in New Jersey (as the Star Wars epoch may cite: the saga begins here). This movie is not perfect; though it's not far from it. And if you haven't seen it at least once, you're missing out on a turning point for film; and a great look into the youthful mind of Kevin Smith.
on January 16, 2003
One day, after an exhaustingly excrutiating day working at the local retail store (I won't say the name, but it rhymes with Shmal-Smart) dealing with insane customers and idiot bosses, I dragged myself to the video store to rent a movie. I found myself in the dollar section, when I spotted "Clerks". I'd been told many times over the years that I should watch this flick, but I'd never gotten around to it. So I rented it, figured it'd be good for a laugh. Was it ever. It lifted my spirits in knowing I wasn't alone in thinking the retail world was insane. Dante was the guy I felt like I was and Randall was the guy I wish I could be.
It starts off rather slow, and really doesn't start to pick up until Randall comes into the picture. The interaction between Dante and Randall makes the whole picture, and without either one, the entire movie wouldn't have been as much fun. From Randall's Death Star theory to Dante's ex-girlfriend appearing, from the hockey game to the funeral parlor, to the final confrontation between Dante and Randall, the movie is extremely funny. It does drag in a few spots though, usually when Dante or Randall are separated. Like I said, these two NEED each other.
Also making their first appearance are Jay and Silent Bob, though they are notedly less funny than in their future appearances, but still enjoyable.
I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who hates their job or likes Kevin Smith movies. Or both.
on November 10, 2002
I worked in customer service for a handful of companies, therefore, I found myself identifying a lot wiith Kevin Smith's first film, CLERKS. Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) hates his job as a convience store clerk. The film takes us through a steady stream of patrons during Dante's shift. The day is not without its breaks though. In between customer problems, there's time for a rooftop hockey game, making up with a girlfriend, a visit to a funeral home, and pondering life's questions.
Shot in black and white and on a shoestring budget, the film is a riotous look at the world of retail As part one of the "Jersey" trilogy, CLERKS introduced the world to Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). The movie give us a hilarious but true look at the retail industry. The Collector's Series DVD has a fine group commentary track with the cast and crew. The deleted scenes, with an introduction from Smith, are pretty funny. As for the "alternate" ending, I think that it might have worked, because it's not what you might expect, given the rest of the film. The theatrical trailer and a video by Soul Asylum from the soundtrack, top off the extras, on the disc. 4 and a half stars, first effort, that is recommended.
on August 12, 2002
Clerks is the story of two foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed 20-something men, one of whom works in a convenience store and the other who works in the video store next door. Since their jobs are mind-numbingly dull, they entertain each other with arguments about which Star Wars film is the best, the sexual exploits of their girlfriends, and complaining about their dim-witted customers (one of which checks every egg on the shelf, trying to find "the perfect dozen," and another that asks for "that movie that was out last year, you know, with that guy in it.") The convenience store clerk, Dante, is also in midst of a relationship crisis with the return of an ex-girlfriend. Rounding out the regulars (I hesitate to call them "stars") are Jay and Silent Bob, the drug dealers that hang out in front of the store.
This film is very funny - I laughed often. However, the humour is quite crude (it originally got an NC-17 for the language alone!), and is therefore not for everyone. However, people in my (and Kevin Smith's) generation will certainly recognise the kernal of truth in the characters - we've all known a drug dealer, had a foul-mouthed slacker friend, and worked in tedious jobs. That's not to say the film is realistic, more of a parody of real life that is great fun at the same time.
Nothing much happens in the film, but the screenplay by director Kevin Smith (who also plays Silent Bob) is so much fun that nothing needs to happen. It's great fun to watch the amateur actors put in better performances than a many of Hollywood stars, especially in the long takes (often 5+ minutes) that is a trademark of this film. The quality of the filming is poor - it is grainy and barely focussed - and the sound isn't great either. However, that's part of the charm (almost like watching through the stores' surveillance comeras), and this DVD edition makes no attempt to clean the material up.
This DVD has a few neat extras, like the original ending (basically, the same ending with 30 seconds more footage), a music video by Soul Asylum (that Smith directed and in which Jay lip-synchs and Silent Bob plays guitar), and some cut scenes. The commentary is a little disappointing, although it does include some neat tidbits on casting, the identities of the actors (for example, Smith's mother is in the film), etc.
on July 12, 2002
Kevin Smith maxed out a batch of credit cards (... worth) to make this hilarious and very clever film. There's no real plot--basically, it's a day in the life of a couple of clerks and the assorted oddballs who populate their lives--but "Clerks" has ten times the energy and originality of nearly every big-budget, small-minded Hollywood production in recent memory. This is due in large part to Smith's profane, irreverent dialogue, surefooted direction, and some convincing performances. Many memorable, laugh-out-loud moments; my favorites have to be the "Star Wars" discussion, and the "sexual revelations" bit. (It's a riot hearing people discuss "Star Wars" as seriously as some would debate Plato's "Republic"). The low budget means this looks more like "The Blair Witch Project" than "The Matrix," but big production values do not a great film make (see "Pearl Harbor" for a prime example). This is what filmmaking should be--not about noisy, splashy effects, demographics, or the bottom line, but about the art of filmmaking. Kudos to Kevin Smith and company for a funny and creative film.
on November 21, 2001
...boy, ain't THAT the truth! Being a comic-book / Stars Wars geek , Kevin Smith's movies are pretty much required viewing for me and my ilk. Although I loved "Chasing Amy" the most, my past experiences as a till jockey (at a comic book & collectibles shop, no less!) makes "Clerks" the Smith-flick I identify with the most.
Thanks (or rather, NO thanks) to my misadventures in the retail trade, I can really relate to Dante & Randall as they spend their respective shifts dealing with rude, obnoxious, and just-plain-weird customers & hangers-on as well as their own boredom during lulls in the action. I especially enjoyed Randall's attitude of indifference & apathy, and his rude & smart-alecky behavior towards the video store patrons he rings up. There were times when I wanted to do the exact same things to the more unsavory regulars that'd pop up at the shop I worked at! Unfortunately, the boss was almost always present, so I had to watch myself or I'd be lectured about "not alienating the big-spender customers with my attitude problem" or some such nonsense.
But I digress. Being a fairly ardent Star Wars aficionado, I found Randall's attempt to put the builders of the Death Stars into a real-world perspective quite entertaining. Who knew there were independent contractors and labor unions in a galaxy far, far away? Then there's the rooftop street-hockey game, our heroes' all-too-brief paying of their respects to a dearly departed ex-girlfriend, one young woman's catatonic-state-inducing experience (a moment that will be referred to in "Chasing Amy"), and a bunch of other stuff I can't really put into words 'cuz it's pretty raw. Besides, you wouldn't want me to give everything away and ruin the magic of the movie, would ya?
on October 22, 2001
(Insert all general, well-deserved, and standard superlatives about Kevin Smith and "Clerks" here).
As for the DVD itself, a hallmark of ANY DVD with Kevin's name on it is the excellent value for your money -- you get not only the movie, but many concominant "bonus features" that are fantastic enough to warrant purchasing the DVD on their presence alone.
Another guaranteed feature of any Kevin Smith DVD is the "commentary" section (although there's one minor criticism I have on this point). Kevin, who invariably has many people connected to the movie (on-screen and off), leads a VERY funny running commentary (this applies not only to "Clerks," but any DVD). Side stories, heads-up pointers, and general analysis are all peppered with funny and insightful thoughts. One feels almost as if you were watching a favorite movie with a bunch of friends who are making an effort to ensure that you're in on the joke.
(Minor criticism time: One (unfortunate) side effect of a KS doing DVD commentary is his habit of naming what seems like each and every actor who appears on screen, no matter how minor. It can have the effect (and at times did have the effect on the Clerks DVD) of making it feel like you were watching a home movie. I don't care that the guy who watched Lenin's Tomb take a sandbox break owned the theater where auditions were held, nor that his wife played opposite Jeff Anderson's famous "I don't appreciate your ruse" scene. Still, it's a VERY minor point in the whole big scheme of things, although I note that Kev's still doing it even as recent as the Clerks: Animated Series DVDs (those are even funnier than the "Clerks" DVD, by the way)).
Whew. Ok, I'm done now, which leads me to wonder why I'm still typing. I'll just click something now.
on June 3, 2001
I wish I could give this film four and a half stars because it almost deserves five. Some people will argue that this picture has no point and is light on story. I totally disagree. The message of this film is simple: if you are dissatisfied with your situation in life, stop complaining and do something to improve things. The main character, Dante, is incapable of changing his life for the better. Although he is sick of working at a convenient store and making nothing of himself, he has a tremendous fear of change. Randall, who is seemingly afraid of nothing and operates the video store across the street, lacks the desire to do something more important with his life. Both characters are smart malcontents who are obviously not getting nearly enough out of their potential. Randall's poor treatment of the video store customers may irritate some of the film's viewers, but as a former video store employee who knows how stupid those types of customers can be, I found his behavior hilarious and I could certainly relate to it. In a way, Randall is the person everyone would like to be -- rude, obnoxious, unafraid to piss stupid people off, outspoken, and irresponsible. Dante, however, represents the type of person most of us are -- compromising, reluctant to take big steps in life, scared of confrontation, and dissatisfied with life. Clerks is one day in the life of two kids in their early twenties and the bizarre events that happen around them. The dialogue is great and the fact that the acting is not always great seems to actually help the movie in some strange way. The black and white in which the film is shot is probably indicative of the dull lives these young clerks live, although there is nothing dull about this day. Without a doubt, Kevin Smith's best film. The cathartic speech Randall delivers to Dante at the end of the film makes for the perfect ending and adds a level of depth to the picture. Though the awful language employed by the characters will not be enjoyed by many older viewers, Gen-Xers can certainly relate to the unique jargon used by those in the picture. Excellent.