To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Clerks III is an indie comedy film written, produced, directed, and edited by Kevin Smith (Jersey Girl). Featuring Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Austin Zajur, Jason Mewes, Rosario Dawson, and Smith, it is the sequel to Clerks II and the ninth (or tenth) feature film set in the View Askewniverse. Set after the events of Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, the story revolves around Randal Graves, who after surviving a heart attack, decides to make a movie with Dante Hicks about their lives at the Quick Stop.
Dante (Brian O’Halloran) arrives at the Quick Stop to open up for the day. He notices gum on the lock and kicks the storefront security door in anger. After scraping off the gum he opens the lock and gets the store ready for customers. After putting on his work shirt, he looks at a picture of his wife taped to the register, looks around the store, and drops his head down in dejection. Randal (Jeff Anderson) arrives at work wearing a hockey jersey and using a ladder climbs to the roof with Dante. On the roof, they play a game of hockey with some friends having temporarily closed the store.
Next door Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) arrive to open their store, THC, Inc. (formerly the Cock Smoker) now a legal marijuana dispensary. Elias (Trevor Fehrman) arrives at the Quick Stop for work with his new friend Blockchain (Austin Zajur). Elias and Randall quickly begin to argue about crypto and religion culminating with Elias telling Randall a paraphrased version of Luke 23:39-43. As Randall continues to berate Elias, he prays that God would smite Randall for his blasphemous remarks. Randall begins having trouble catching his breath and passes out on the ground forcing Dante to call an ambulance.
My first introduction to the View Askewniverse was in the year 2000 when I first saw Dogma. As a Christian, I found the film’s commentary on Catholicism hilarious and its story poignant. The very next year I saw Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and I was happy to see two of my favorite characters from Dogma get their own spinoff. It wasn’t until the release of Clerks II that I realized there were more films in this shared universe. So, I decided to watch Clerks, Mallrats, and Chasing Amy in release order to further understand the characters Smith created. While some films are better than others, I loved how Smith reused actors for either the same or different roles and made small connections and jokes between each film. Some jokes are overt and others only die-hard fans would understand. Considering that this was done pre-MCU, I would say Kevin Smith deserves some acknowledgment for the success of those movies.
As the film began I found myself thinking that it looked cheaper than some of Smith’s previous View Askewniverse features. I wasn’t feeling the story as much, but as it continued I quickly jumped on board. The story harkens back to Clerks with its indie low-budget feel. Some connections and characters from Clerks II remain but as most trilogies end they try to tie things back to their first films. Emporer Palpatine’s second Death Star in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the Ten Rings appearing in Iron Man 3, and the League of Shadows appearing in The Dark Knight Rises are clear examples of this trend. Clerks III is in essence an homage to Clerks as that’s the movie Randall decides to make after his heart attack. When he needs to cast actors he holds auditions where there are cameos from regular Smith collaborators such as Ben Affleck, Fred Armisen, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ethan Suplee to name a few.
The film is also an homage to Kevin Smith’s life. He made Clerks while working in the very store in which that movie was filmed. Silent Bob even makes a fourth-wall-breaking joke about shooting Randall’s film in black and white. Many of the characters in Clerks are based on Smith and the people he knew, with a lot of the actors being friends of his. Randall’s heart attack in this film is akin to the heart attack Smith suffered in 2018. After this Smith decided to return to the film universe he launched his career with. The decisions made with how Dante and Randall’s lives have turned out might be depressing for some, but it feels realistic. Their friendship isn’t perfect and they have suffered hardships over the years yet still they find a way to stick it out. This movie culminates in a touching ending that some View Askewniverse fans might find controversial, but in reality, it was the original ending Smith wanted with the first film before being talked into changing it. Although this time it works for the better and feels earned.
Clerks III is a love letter to fans who have been watching the View Askewniverse since the very beginning. Kevin Smith has crafted a story that is both hilarious and personal. He recaptures the indie feel that the first Clerks had while making small connections to the larger universe he has created. I give Clerks III a Decent 7.7/10. This is the greatest cinematic universe ever created – aside from the MCU! Can’t wait to see what Smith does with Twilight of the Mallrats.