Review: ‘Clerks III,’ starring Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Austin Zajur, Jason Mewes, Rosario Dawson and Kevin Smith

September 16, 2022

by Carla Hay

Jeff Anderson, Brian O’Halloran, Kevin Smith, Austin Zajur and Trevor Fehrman in “Clerks III” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Clerks III”

Directed by Kevin Smith

Culture Representation: Taking place in Leonardo, New Jersey, the comedy film “Clerks III” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: The misfits and eccentrics of the “Clerks” movies have returned—and this time, they’re making a biographical movie about the guy who’s the biggest screwup in the group.

Culture Audience: “Clerks III” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the previous “Clerks” movies and filmmaker Kevin Smith, because those are the viewers who are most likely to understand a lot of the jokes in “Clerks III.”

Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith in “Clerks III” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Clerks III” is best enjoyed by people who’ve seen or know about the first two “Clerks” movies. “Clerks III” relies heavily on jokes from previous “Clerks” movies. Therefore, some of the comedy is too repetitive. However, the movie’s zany attitude should please fans of a comedy film that can easily laugh at itself.

Kevin Smith wrote and directed 1994’s “Clerks” (still the best in the series), 2006’s “Clerks II” and 2022’s “Clerks III.” He plays on-again/off-again drug dealer Silent Bob in all three movies, which feature Silent Bob and his buffoonish partner in crime Jay (played by Jason Mewes, who is a longtime, close friend of Smith in real life). All three movies (which take place in Leonardo, New Jersey) revolve around eccentric and goofy clerks who work at small, quick-service stores in an outdoor shopping strip mall.

The two main clerks who are at the center of each movie are best friends Dante Hicks (played by Brian O’Halloran) and Randal Graves (played by Jeff Anderson), who are a stereotypical comedy “odd couple.” Dante is the more serious and “responsible” one of this duo. Randal is the one who’s more impulsive and more likely to make a mess of things. The biggest thing that Dante and Randal have in common is their passion for pop culture, especially anything that would attract a typical Comic-Con attendee.

In the first “Clerks” movie, Dante worked at the convenience store Quick Stop Groceries, which was next door to RST Video, where Randal worked. In “Clerks II,” Dante was the owner of Quick Stop, but Randal accidentally burned down the store after leaving a percolating pot of coffee unattended. The fire also destroyed RST Video, so Dante and Randal took jobs at a fast food restaurant called Mooby’s, where they worked with a teenager named Elias Grover (played by Trevor Fehrman) and Mooby’s manager Rebecca “Becky” Scott (played by Rosario Dawson).

In “Clerks III,” Dante and Randal are still bachelors working at low-paying jobs. Dante is once again the owner and operator of Quick Stop, which is right next door to RST Video, which now has a makeshift sign advertising that it now sells THC products. (In 2021, selling and using marijuana recreationally became legal in New Jersey.) Elias (with Fehrman reprising his role), who is a frequent customer of Quick Stop, has grown up to be a religious fanatic who can’t decide if he wants to be a devout Christian or a devout Satanist.

Becky died in 2006, at the age of 33. Dante, who was romantically involved with Becky in “Clerks II,” is still grieving over her death. Dante sees visions of Becky (with Dawson reprising her role) intermittently throughout “Clerks III,” where Becky imparts words of wisdom to Dante when he’s feeling down. Dante, who is now in his 50s, is battling with having a mid-life crisis, because he feels like he should have accomplished more with his life by now.

In addition to all of these returning characters, “Clerks III” introduces the new character Blockchain Coltrane (played by Austin Zajur), who is Elias’ mostly mute sidekick. Randal quips about Blockchain Coltrane: “It looks like Elias has got his own Silent Bob.” Elias is fixated on the idea of selling kites with the image of Jesus Christ on the kites. Elias thinks that that these kites will be a hit with the public. Dante is very skeptical and reluctant to sell any of these kites in the store.

There are some nods to the first “Clerks” movie in “Clerks III,” such as the opening scene where Dante arrives at Quick Stop to start work for the day, and he scrapes gum off of the front-door lock. (This “gum on a lock” plot device is a significant catalyst for the story in “Clerks.”) In “Clerks III,” there’s also an early scene where Dante, Randal and about six other men play hockey on the roof of Quick Stop, instead of working during the store’s opening hours, as confused and impatient customers line up to get into the store. It’s a reference to a similar scene in the first “Clerks” movie where Randal and Dante goofed off on the store roof instead of working.

The slacker characters of the first “Clerks” movie might be much older now, but it doesn’t mean that they’re much wiser. A lot of the comedy is about all the doltish things that the guys say and do. Any women in the movie mainly serve as foils for some of these shenanigans.

And you know what that means: Becky isn’t the only ex-girlfriend of Dante’s who shows up in “Clerks III.” Dante’s former fiancée Emma Bunting (played by Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), who was in “Clerks II,” makes an appearance. Veronica “Ronnie” Loughran (played by Marilyn Ghigliotti) from the first “Clerks” movie also has a small supporting role in “Clerks III.” Past grudges affect what happens between these characters. Viewers should really know the backstories of these characters in order to understand lot of the jokes.

The main story in “Clerks III” is that Randal has a heart attack, which leads him to rethink his life and what kind of legacy he wants to leave. He comes up with the idea of doing a movie about his life, which he will write and direct and star in, as himself. Randal thinks he’s qualfiied to direct his first movie because he’s watched a lot of movies. Silent Bob, who is hired to be the cinematographer of Randal’s movie, breaks his silence in a hilarious meta monologue referencing the first “Clerks” movie and why it was filmed in black and white.

Of course, Randal being Randal, all sorts of mishaps and mayhem occur during this movie shoot, which Randal wants to film mainly at Quick Stop. Dante starts to feel alienated by Randal acting like an egotistical director. Dante also feels like he’s being sidelined in the movie’s script. And all of the other characters get involved with their own agendas.

“Clerks III” has very much a vibe of, “The gang’s all back together, and let’s put a lot of famous people in this movie too.” There are numerous celebrity cameos in “Clerks III,” including Ben Affleck, Amy Sedaris, Justin Long, Danny Trejo, Fred Armisen, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Freddie Prinze Jr., Michelle Buteau and Anthony Michael Hall. No one does a terrible acting performance in the movie, but no one is particularly outstanding either.

One of the charms of the first “Clerks” movie is that it was obviously made by people who had no idea that the film would become a cult classic and launch the career of Smith. “Clerks III” has a little too much self-awareness for its own good. There’s a lot of fan servicing in “Clerks III” that won’t sit very well with people who have no knowledge of the first two “Clerks” movies. However, if people have enough knowledge of pop culture, they should gets some laughs out of “Clerks III,” which sometimes overloads on mentioning trendy things from the early 2020s that that will inevitably become very outdated.

What saves “Clerks III” from being an annoying rehash of the first two “Clerks” movies is the way the movie ends. Some people might be expecting this ending, because it’s an ending that Smith has talked about before in interviews. Other viewers might be caught off guard by the movie’s final scenes. This ending gives “Clerks III” an emotional substance that viewers will remember much more than the movie’s many trash-talking, throwaway jokes.

Lionsgate and Fathom Events are releasing “Clerks III” in select U.S. cinemas for a limited engagement from September 13 to September 18, 2022.

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