Review Written by: Will Penley
Film: A+ (Theatrical Version)/A- (Extended Version)
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Written by: Kevin Smith
Produced by: Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Lisa Spoonahuer
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it!
What makes a masterpiece? Even more so, how many films can actually be called a masterpiece? A few titles are probably going through your head right now, like Citizen Kane
or Schindler's List
. But I'm thinking of a different title. A lot of people haven't seen it and some people haven't even heard of it. This excellent film is none other than Kevin Smith's directorial debut, Clerks
. Made on a minuscule budget and shot on grainy black-and-white 16MM, Clerks
held the record for many years of being the most stolen videotape of all time and for good reason.
was shot almost completely inside a Quick Stop convenience store located in Highlands, New Jersey in the spring of 1993. This was the same store that writer/director Smith worked at for many years prior to production. What's even more interesting is that most of the indoor scenes were shot in the middle of the night while everyone else was sleeping. The cast was full of unknowns. The crew was inexperienced. The equipment was less-than-perfect. Nobody expected much to come from the project. Three weeks later, a true masterpiece was completed.
Jay and Silent Bob
Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) has been unexpectedly called into work at the Quick Stop on the same day that he's supposed to play hockey. Frustrated and very tired, he heads off to the store. Things start going wrong immediately. The bloody savages of New Jersey have jammed gum into the locks of the steel shutters, so he has to make a very creative "open" sign with shoe polish. Even more so, the newspaper machines are empty and he has to swipe some from another nearby machine. The rest of the day isn't spectacular either.
Over the course of this day, he will be pelted with cigarettes by an anti-smoking mob. He will learn of a former girlfriend's death. He will play street hockey on the roof of the store. He will wax philosophical on Star Wars
and the tabloid magazines. He'll have to put up with his overly sarcastic best friend Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson), who works at the nearby RST video store. He will learn of the past sexual exploits of his current girlfriend Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti). He'll deal with rude customers, faulty electrics and neighborhood drug dealers Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) -- all of this while trying to reunite with his ex-girlfriend Caitlin (Lisa Spoonauer).
is brilliant from start to finish. Not only is it one of the most entertaining, vulgar and hilarious movies of all time, but it's also a biting social commentary. It perfectly captures the spirit of the '90s and Generation X. Although the main characters are foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed slackers, they are extremely relatable. We care about the characters and their crappy jobs. There are no special effects or well-choreographed stunts present here. Clerks
is completely based in the real world. This is a film about people and their relationships to one another. It's about us.
Kevin Smith clearly knows every little detail about the world of convenience stores and that comes through perfectly in his excellent screenplay. The dialogue in Clerks
is some of the most realistic I've ever heard. All of the characters are well-developed and, as I said earlier, incredibly easy to relate to. I've noticed a lot of people accuse the actors of not doing the best job, but that's completely untrue. Every single actor plays their role perfectly, whether it be Jeff Anderson as Randal (easily the best performance) or Walt Flanagan as the annoyed customer with only one scene.
There are no fancy camera set-ups or shots, and the camera rarely moves. But that isn't a bad thing, not at all. In fact, that's perfect for this film. Most of the time in life, we find ourselves standing next to someone, lost in conversation and that's exactly what the cinematography conveys. I'll probably be accused of praising things that don't deserve praise, but every single aspect of Clerks
does! The direction, the screenplay, the cinematography, the acting -- everything is absolutely perfect in every way. What makes a masterpiece? Apparently, Kevin Smith. I can't praise this film enough. If only there were more like it.
On the DVD side of things, this three-disc set is further proof that View Askew really knows how to do DVD right. The new high-definition widescreen transfer is a huge improvement from any previous one I've ever seen. Grain has been significantly reduced and the colors (black and white are colors) are looking much more polished. This is the best the film has ever looked and it probably can't get much better. The disc also sports a newly-remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 track that isn't going to blow you away, but the vast amounts of dialogue and countless grunge tunes can be heard perfectly.
All three discs in the set are loaded with extras and every single extra is quality. Starting off disc one is an audio commentary featuring Smith, producer Scott Mosier, actors Brian O'Halloran, Jason Mewes and Walt Flanagan, View Askew historian Vincent Pereira and Film Threat writer Malcolm Ingram. What makes the View Askew commentaries so great is that they can be both fun and informative at the same time and that certainly holds true all the way back to this first one. By the way, this is the same legendary commentary in which Mewes gets drunk and starts screaming things into the microphone. This commentary works even better when used in conjunction with the subtitled trivia track, which gives even more information about the film.
"The Lost Scene," presented in the animation style of the ill-fated Clerks
animated series, gives us a hilarious look at what really happened after Dante and Randal made their infamous entry into the funeral parlor. I should also mention that this scene also features the voice of Joey Lauren Adams as Alyssa Jones, the character she played in Chasing Amy
. You can watch this scene by itself or integrated into the film. "The Flying Car" is an absolutely hysterical short film that reunites Dante and Randal, who are stuck in traffic on the highway and begin philosophizing on the future of automobiles. This short was shot in 2002 and appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Eight long sought-after MTV spots featuring Jay and Silent Bob have been included, along with the film's original theatrical trailer and the music video for Soul Asylum's fantastic song "Can't Even Tell," which closes out the film. One really interesting extra is a series of four original audition tapes from the Clerks casting session in 1993. Who knew that Jeff Anderson originally auditioned for Jay? Producer and sound mixer Scott Mosier and director of photography Dave Klein provide brief introductions on the restoration of the audio and video and Smith also chimes in with a long, hilarious introduction to the film. Five sneak peeks for other Miramax films round out disc one. Additionally, almost every extra on disc one comes with its own introduction by Kevin Smith.
Disc two is dedicated to the original 105-minute cut of Clerks that screened at the IFFM, which includes all of the deleted scenes and the atrocious original ending in which Dante is shot and killed. Regardless of the ending, this version is still a great way to see the Clerks
that might have been. The audio or video on this version hasn't been remastered any, but that's just fine. It actually makes the experience a bit more engrossing because it feels like we're watching everything from the viewpoint of a security camera in the store. As per usual, we're immediately greeted with an introduction by Smith and Mosier after starting the film. Nobody else could make a simple introduction so funny. In fact, when the introduction first begins, they're not talking about Clerks
, but Road House
of all things. They also mention that if a special edition of Road House
was ever released, they would like to do a commentary for it. And apparently we'll all get to hear this commentary come July 18.
The sole special feature on this disc is an all-new audio commentary featuring Smith, Mosier, Mewes, O'Halloran, and Anderson. You can also select the "video commentary" in which you can view the live commentary session (much like the original Mallrats
disc). I loved getting to watch the participants as they recorded the track and I wish that type of extra would appear more often. This is one of my favorite commentaries of all time. It includes a lot of great production stories, such as the time Mosier saw Smith's mother naked late one night and there's naturally a lot of off-topic talk as well. Everyone needs to listen to this commentary, because it's one of the best I've ever heard.
Opening the third and final disc is the absolute best extra in the entire package, a fantastic documentary called "Snowball Effect" that chronicles everything from Smith's early influences to the film's production and eventual success. I've probably seen this as many times as I've seen Clerks
itself. This is without a doubt the most inspirational documentary of all time. In fact, "Snowball Effect" is what inspired me to give filmmaking a go in the first place. If you haven't seen this documentary, there's clearly something wrong with you. It's the best extra I've ever seen on any DVD, and it really makes this set worth buying.
During Smith's time at the film school in Vancouver, he and Mosier planned to make a documentary called "Mae Day," which was about a transvestite named Emelda Mae, who was about to have a sex change. After just one night of shooting with her, she disappeared and their project seemed doomed. That's when they got the brilliant idea of making a documentary about how theirs fell apart, titled "Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary," in which the project's crew spend their screen time bashing the "incompetent directors." Smith and Mosier appear as themselves. This is a really fun watch for Smith fans. This is preceded with an intro by Smith and Mosier.
Additionally, several interesting production stories, such as the origin of View Askew mascot Vulgar the Clown, can be found in the thirteen deleted scenes from "Snowball Effect." One of the disc's best extras is the 10th anniversary Q&A session with cast and crew, which runs for about fifty minutes. Naturally, almost every single question is awful, but Smith and company are always prepared with hilarious replies. If you enjoyed An Evening with Kevin Smith
, you'll definitely want to watch this. Finishing off the final disc is a still photo gallery, Smith's pre-Clerks
and Sundance journals and several articles/reviews about or related to the film.
Also included is a booklet featuring a letter from Smith, in which he declares the following. "They say you can never go home again. Watch me. Clerks II
in '05." Well, the long-awaited sequel sadly did not arrive in 2005, but I'm very glad it's being made at all. Clerks II
is set for release on July 21, which is just over a month away. You can bet that I'll be first in line to see it. Clerks
is the reason I spend my time writing screenplays and talking about movies. Clerks
is the reason I want to be a filmmaker. Without Clerks
, you probably wouldn't be reading this. I expect that seeing the sequel will be a very cathartic experience. If it's not, then I must have walked into the wrong theater. I can't say enough for this film. I could go on and on about every little detail, every little line of dialogue or camera movement. I hope you'll go check it out after reading my review, which has definitely gone on much longer than necessary. Clerks
is a true masterpiece, but can Smith really pull it off again? Can he return to these much-idolized characters and continue their story? Can he do it without souring the reputation of the original? Definitely.