When Kevin Smith announced plans for 2006’s Clerks 2, many — including Smith himself — were quick to accuse the writer/director of going “back to the well,” of re-opening the door to his shared View Askewniverse too quickly after slamming it shut in 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. After the relative failure of Jersey Girl, his first (and still unfairly-maligned) attempt at more family-friendly fare, returning the safe and familiar world of his 1994 breakout felt more than a little like copping out. It felt cheap. It felt uninspired. Why revisit these characters? Who cares what Dante and Randal (Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson) are doing a decade after Clerks? Doesn’t Smith know that comedy sequels rarely work? And while Clerks 2 does often feel like a retread of tired gags punctuated by knowing and almost apologetic winks to the camera, it also acts as both a brutal indictment of the politically agnostic slacker culture the original Clerks helped foster and a reflexive affirmation of Smith’s deepest-seeded creative identity.
Though Smith demonstrated considerable growth as a screenwriter in the years since the original Clerks, there is a homemade quality to the sequel’s screenplay that feels straight out of that period in his life. The dialogue is wordier and more stilted than that of his (then) recent films, the kind of overwritten and almost inhuman wordplay we all churn out in our teens and early twenties (said Harrison Ford to George Lucas: “You can type this shit, but you can’t say it!”). This feels intentional and, when combined with the unpolished indie sensibilities of actors O’Halloran and Anderson, gives Clerks 2 a kind of metatextual connection with its predecessor. Smith isn’t correcting the mistakes of his low-budget days; he’s reveling in them, making the kind of film he’d have made if — like his characters — he’d never left New Jersey. Original Clerks cinematographer David Klein returns with a few more tricks up his sleeve (a crane here, a dolly there), but the film’s single location and washed out look (purposely desaturated to evoke black and white) match form with content in an appropriate way.
*In-universe, according to Smith.