Chapter Two: Clerks II
By Brett Beach
May 12, 2009
The sequel. Along with remakes and adaptations, it has been a cornerstone of the film industry for as long as it took writers and producers and directors to realize that what worked once might work twice, and even if not, audiences might be clamoring for it anyway and be willing to shell out their cash yet again. Very few films that spawn one are content to rest there and thus are franchises born. Chapter Two will look explicitly at the first sequel only.
The sequels that work the best often do one of two things: continue the story of characters we care about in a satisfying way; or take the best elements of the original film and give us another round of those with less fat in between (think of William Goldman's novel The Princess Bride and how it was slyly sold as a fairy tale with all the boring bits cut out). This latter scenario most often applies to action and horror films with bigger ‘splosions, a greater number of gruesome® death scenes or more mind-blowing special effects. Occasionally, sequels opt for the story before the story (i.e The Beginning) and become prequels. Even rarer still are those sequels that appear to disregard entirely what made the first film work and branch off on their own crazed path. Chapter Two will consider them all: the heralded, the unheralded and those that time may have passed by and deserve a second glance. I am always thankful that (so far) James Cameron has resisted any attempts to make Titanic 2. But a part of me wonders as well – Wow, what the hell would that be like? And in that vein of inquiry...welcome to Chapter Two.
Clerks II (2006)
For all the vulgarities, crudities, unconventional sex acts and lewd behavior on display in most of Kevin Smith's movies, they are at heart quite conventional and supremely sincere comedies and he is, to say the least, a tubby, starry-eyed, romantic, sentimental little bitch. It wouldn't surprise me if Smith concurred with this epithet or has used it in reference to himself since self-deprecation is one of his calling cards. Smith acknowledges that he is not that great a filmmaker when it comes to style and technique, which is true, and his willingness to take the air out of himself and his productions makes it that much harder to criticize him harshly. By beating his detractors to the punch, he takes the wind out of their sails (although whoopee cushion might be a more apt analogy).
And yet he is a master of crafting unforgettably profane dialogue exchanges (the competition between Banky and Alyssa in Chasing Amy to recount the most unusual injury received in the line of sexual duty is a personal favorite) and rendering quirky individualistic characters to populate his stories. When Smith is firing on all cylinders, the profanities and jaw-dropping conversations never seem gratuitous. If the words and actions were just shocking, they wouldn't be worth returning to time and again. Trash talking and complete and utter frankness are the way these people relate to one another and if Smith never quite achieves the eloquent gutter poetry of Mamet or Tarantino, his enthusiasm and care for the characters and his cock-eyed optimism are winning.