I first became acquainted with the American film classic "Clerks" while in graduate school at the University of Missouri in the late 1990's. After seeing the movie "Chasing Amy" and commenting on it to my son, the future screenwriter, Tim noted that if I enjoyed that movie, I would also like "Mallrats" and "Clerks." Both of those movies were written and directed by Kevin Smith - as was "Chasing Amy" - and featured some of the same characters. I was able to find those films in a fine little movie rental place on Ninth Street in Columbia - and enjoyed them both immensely.
"Clerks" was the first of the series, and it was shot on a shoestring budget. While the somewhat primitive effort contained numerous technical flaws, it quickly rose to the rank of cult classic. The movie focused on one day at a rundown New Jersey quick stop. It featured Brian O'Halloran as Dante, the convenience store clerk, and Jeff Anderson (a local resident who was not a professional actor at the time) as Randall, the guy who ran the video store attached to the quick stop. Two other fixtures at the business were Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith (the writer/director) as a pair of drug dealers who loitered outside playing their boom box while harassing passersby and selling weed. Silent Bob (Smith) never spoke and every utterance Jay made, which were plentiful, was misogynistic, obscene, and embarrassingly funny.
Jay and Silent Bob went on toe be featured in several more films, my favorite of which was "Dogma" starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
"Clerks" came out in 1994 and served as the launching pad for the very funny and talented Kevin Smith. He did a host of other films after that, but in 2006, twelve years after the original, Kevin Smith returned to his roots with "Clerks II." I managed to see it at a theatre in Clarksville, Tennessee, while I was working at Ft. Campbell. There was a theme of bestiality woven into that work, and my clearest memory of seeing it in the theatre was watching how uncomfortable the fellow in front of me was becoming - just before he got up and walked out. Kevin Smith had pushed the envelope a bit too far his tastes. The movie was funny, but in a few spots it was funny in an uncomfortable way. Overall, "Clerks II" was not nearly as good as the original.
This week I happened to catch "Clerks II" on television - on one of the uncensored movie channels. Despite the unfortunate delving into what was referred to in the movie as a bit of "inter-species erotica" (though nothing was actually shown), the movie did contain some interesting cameos (Ben Affleck and Jason Lee, for two) and one hilarious bit by Wanda Sykes in which Randall used the term "porch monkeys" in her presence as she was waiting in line to purchase a meal from the now 32-year-old burger flipper. Ms. Sykes exploded on him in classic and comic fashion.
Now I understand that "Clerks III" has been completed and is awaiting release. I hope that it's good and that Smith leaves the donkey out of this one. Even over-the-top humor should have a ceiling in there somewhere. Kevin Smith has reportedly said that "Clerks III" will be the last of the series - and there can't be too many more anyway because who would buy weed from a couple of old white dudes using walkers?