Clerks III has always been one of those promised sequels from writer/director Kevin Smith that felt like it would never happen. It's one of many unmade projects that the filmmaker has announced or attached himself to in the last few years, and it seemed for a while there was always a setback or a new development that would shift the Quick Stop-based threequel to the back burner. The fact that Clerks III even exists is a miracle, but the revelation that it’s an unexpectedly touching finale to the story of Dante and Randall makes it even more of a sight to behold.
The variant of Clerks III that made it into reality sees Kevin Smith admittedly mining his own personal history for the story he’s committed to the screen. In the wake of suffering a near fatal heart attack, convenience store clerk extraordinaire Randall (Jeff Anderson) decides he wants to become a filmmaker.
With perhaps the most meta take on life and filmmaking in his career, Smith reunites the usual cast of Jason Mewes as Jay and Brian O’Halloran as Dante, as well as some other returning faces, to bring this segment of the View Askiew-niverse full circle. By time Clerks III ends, fans of the series are going to be stunned while wanting to enjoy the entire trilogy again for the first time.
Clerks III is a warm blanket for fans of the previous films that pushes its protagonists out of their comfort zone.
Kevin Smith is going back to the proverbial well again, which is particularly interesting after already revisiting his previous work through 2019’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. The lives of Dante and Randall have always been connected to Jay and Silent Bob – so much so that these two separate paths tend to bleed into each other quite often. Clerks III is definitely a warm blanket for the fans who can quote the myriad of Smith’s work, right from its opening sequence set to My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade.”
Where Clerks III differs from Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is in the unique lens that’s used to look back on the life and times of Kevin Smith. The previous film was more of a comedy with some dramatic aspects – a specialty that Smith has been wielding over several pictures. In a sense, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot was about Kevin Smith’s life; whereas Clerks III is more about his career.
Though it takes direct influence from Smith's personal journey, a fictionalized take on making the first Clerks movie (aptly named Inconvenience under Randall Graves’ artistic hand) offers many opportunities to show off the cinematic world that’s been built since 1994. With Easter eggs, similar plot beats from other films, and even the cameos and surprise appearances, Clerks III pleasantly tips its baseball cap to the oeuvre of Kevin Smith.
Kevin Smith goes harder on the drama in Clerks III, and he could have pushed things further if he wanted.
Running throughout the film is usual blend of raunchy, pop culture humor and deeper personal drama that Kevin Smith has made great use of in the past. The surprise that lies ahead of viewers eager to see Clerks III is just how dramatic things get. Walking away from this movie, it feels like this story is the closest that Kevin Smith has ever come to making an all out drama.
Yes, that does include Jersey Girl, the dramedy with a huge heart that Smith saw maligned by the press and public almost 20 years ago. Much as he did with that film, Clerks III’s writer/director continues to spin stories out of everyday life. There’s good times, there’s bad times, and there’s the times you’re trying to explain to your cardiologist the plot of The Mandalorian before under going heart surgery. That’s the Kevin Smith playbook, and he hasn’t let it out of his sight yet.
If anything, Clerks III could have pushed more into the dramatic half of things, in an effort to further distance itself from Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. Both films draw upon the revived Kevin Smith, a man who wants to make deeply personal movies about the familiar cinematic jesters we’ve palled around with for decades. That lack of distance puts both movies on familiar footing, with Reboot pulling ahead by a hair. That’s not a bad thing though, as Clerks III has an interesting card up its sleeve that could play out in its favor over time.
Clerks III is a fitting end to the adventures of Randall and Dante, which will prompt viewers to want to experience the journey all over again.
The Jay and Silent Bob spinoffs are very much pop culture/comic strip style experiences that act as massive cultural takedowns, with just a bit of heart mixed in. Meanwhile, the Clerks series has always been about surviving jobs that would be great if only it wasn’t for the damned customers. Even in the face of gross out humor and discussions about sexual etiquette, there’s been a great, big, beating organ at the center of Kevin Smith’s now completed trilogy. It just wasn’t the one everyone was thinking of.
In the moment, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot feels like the winner of the battle between passion projects, but Clerks III is built for the long run. Through three movies, Kevin Smith tells the story of two men who are the epitome of hetero life mates. Dante and Randall’s friendship is one for the ages, and in the world of personal dramedies that mocked Lord of the Rings, Smith has stumbled upon his own trilogy that shows a world in flux, calling upon its heroes to grow and mature through hard choices. Much like those stories, those that such tales resonated with the most will find themselves wanting to revisit this lore time and again.
Almost 30 years have gone into Clerks III, and with each film Kevin Smith has shown his evolution as a filmmaker. In a sense, whenever he’s returned to this world, it’s usually been on the back of some new turn or twist in his development. As he experienced his brush with death, Clerks III visits that sort of treatment upon the Quick Stop’s finest, and the result is a beautiful, bittersweet send off. The age of Clerks has drawn to a close, but the tales of dying patrons, donkey shows, and cryptocurrency will carry on. All trilogies should wish for an ending as fitting as the one in Clerks III.
Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.