Review: Clerks II
Oh my lord Kevin, what have you done?!? I know Jersey Girl was a mess, but I did not see this coming. Oh who am I kidding, I kinda did see this coming but I prayed you'd be able to right the ship and make a comeback. Instead, I think I'm done with you. Yes, it's that bad. Sigh.
I would be a lot more forgiving if you had put forth some kind of effort. Instead, in an attempt to show the grown up side of Dante and Randall you created a clichéd love story with no subtlety or originality. The characters were animatronic shells of their former selves and it seemed like this was more of a reunion for the players than an effort to improve on the first film. Thankfully, Cinecultist was there to witness the horror with me and managed to succinctly explain why the first one was great and this one was not:
Walking out of the theater completely dejected, [Cinecultist] realized KS doesn't really understand why the first Clerks works, because the sequel does wrong everything that the original got right. Clerks takes a tiny premise (a day in the life of two dudes in going nowhere jobs) but adds complex, real characters with heart and culturally resonant banter. The camera work is static but like a play on screen, the important thing is the dialogue getting to ramble on with impunity. There the film can show its point of view and it's a delight.
Bingo. Whenever a film is about complex characters that love to talk, the camera should move as little as possible. Odds are that Kevin Smith's cinematic repertoire wasn't as large ten years ago, but that definitely worked to his benefit. In this case, he felt it was necessary to use a 360 shot1, much faster editing and, as Cinecultist also pointed out, a crane shot at the end of a dance number (which is another problem all together).
I could detail the plot for you, but I won't. Just know that nearly everything in this film was second rate. The only positive thing we could agree on was the performance of Tevor Fehrman, who played Elias wonderfully. I laughed out loud a bunch of times, but most of the film was spent turning to my right and making the, "did you just see that?" face.
After a few days to mull it over, this is the worst film of the summer. It may have had more to it than Little Man, but that film had zero aspirations. Clerks II didn't attempt to be the next Citizen Kane, but a sequel to a good film should provide an experience similar to or better than the first one and this failed on every level. What's worse is that a director/writer I once respected has cashed in all of his goodwill and is going to have a tough time winning it back.
1 It's the one where the camera circles around the actors during a heated argument to show you their supremely intense anger (I realize this is probably not its real name). It is my least favorite camera shot and used almost exclusively in crappy movies. ↩