Blu-ray Review: ‘Clerks III’ (2022)

For 28 years now, Kevin Smith has had an interesting career; one filled with ups and downs. He came rolling out of the gate with four great films in a row (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma). He followed those up with what was, at the time, meant to be the final hurrah for his View Askewniverse (Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back), and then delivered a mature dramedy about parenthood (Jersey Girl) that audiences promptly rejected.

After that, he returned to his View Askew character posse with 2006’s Clerks II. Fans remain divided on that one, but I still consider it to be one of Smith’s finest films. Since then, the filmmaker has dabbled further in comedy (Zack & Miri Make a Porno), tried his hand at gritty terror (Red State), and also made an assortment of goofier genre fare (Tusk, Yoga-Hosers, and his Holidays segment). Not all of this side ventures have been successful. Cop Out and Yoga-Hosers in particular are pretty bad. Still, I applaud him for doing something different.

Of course, he never fully left the View Askewniverse behind, as wedged in-between all of those were the animated Jay & Silent Bob’s Groovy Cartoon Movie (which Smith didn’t direct) and 2019’s Jay & Silent Bob Reboot. While I’ve enjoyed the Jay & Silent Bob solo films to varying degrees, my heart has always been with the deeper entries in the overall saga, so I was delighted when the long-promised Clerks III finally became a reality.

The second film in the Clerks subset ended with Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall Graves (Jeff Anderson) purchasing the old convenience store and video store that they used to work at. From clerks to business owners. We pick up with them there, years later, and not a ton has changed. The video store has since closed and is now a weed dispensary run by Jay & Silent Bob, but for the most part, things are the same. Until, of course, Randall has a heart-attack mid-rant one day.

Having faced his own mortality, Randall becomes determined to finally do something ambitious with his life: make a movie. More specifically, he decides to make a movie about his (and therefore also Dante’s) life as a retail clerk. Yes, they are going to make Clerks. This is very much a big slice of meta commentary from Kevin Smith about his own life and career. One conceived after Smith himself had a heart attack back in 2018.

There’s a deep sad and somber tone hiding behind the laughs of this film. In the wake of his own heart attack, Smith has seemingly realized that he likely has more days behind him than in front of him and the specter of that revelation hangs over Clerks III like a dark cloud. Don’t get wrong, there are still plenty of laughs to be found within, but each one of them is still sitting there with a layer of finality.

Could today be Randall’s last day to spend time with his friends and loved ones? Could it be Dante’s last? Could it be Smith’s? Yours or mine? That’s what this film is wrestling with from frame one. Mind you, it doesn’t always juggle these things well. The first act in particular is very wobbly, but the film manages to find its legs as it goes along, culminating in a very strong (and often heartbreaking) third act. Yes, you will laugh a lot throughout, but you’ll also likely cry just as much. Such is life, especially as we get older.

The film is packed with cameos, both from folks Smith has worked with for decades (Ben Affleck, Ethan Suplee, Scott Mosier), a few from more recent works (Justin Long, Melissa Benoist, Chris Wood), and a few new faces as well. The real treat, however, is seeing so many familiar faces return from the original Clerks. If you can think of a particular favorite customer character from that movie, odds are high that they reappear here in a similar fashion. Nostalgia bait? Perhaps, but it works. Sometimes it’s just nice to hang out with old friends again.

In terms of the disc itself, this is a packed release. We are treated to a nice heartfelt intro from Smith himself before even getting to the menu; thanking viewers and fans for continuing to watch his movies (and therefore keep him employed) for going on 30 years. Beyond that, we’ve got an audio commentary, a ‘making of’ doc for the film, another one for the overall Clerks trilogy, and also an assortment of deleted/alternate scenes. Like I said, it’s a stacked release that should please any fan.

I’m not sure if Kevin Smith will ever make another movie that I find as impactful as Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jersey Girl, or Clerks II. Which is fine! Clerks III comes close and that’s good enough for me. It may ultimately be my least favorite of this particular trilogy, but it’s packed with more heart and soul than anything else that Smith has made since Clerks II. I doubt this will be the least View Askewniverse film, but I do suspect it will be the final emotional one. Anything else we get after this is likely to skew towards the fun & carefree end of the series spectrum and that’s fine too. If the deeper emotional arc of the “saga” ends here, it’s a good note for it to play out on.

Clerks III is a comedy and the ninth installment in the View Askewniverse series. It was written and directed by Kevin Smith. The film was produced by Liz Destro, Jordan Monsanto, Jeff Anderson, Chelsea Cole, David Gendron, Matthew Helderman, Amy Jarvela, Daniel McGilvray, Brian O’Halloran, and Luke Taylor. It stars Jeff Anderson, Brian O’Halloran, Trevor Fehrman, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Rosario Dawson, Austin Zajur, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Jennifer Schwalbach, and Amy Sedaris.

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