Almost thirty years after the seminal original, Kevin Smith brings his layabout trilogy to a close with his latest comedy Clerks III. Back at the Quick Stop convenience store where it all began, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) team up with drug-dealing duo Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) to make their own autobiographical movie, taking them down memory lane and putting their friendship to the ultimate test.
Bookended by health scares, the narrative is inspired by the heart attack suffered by writer and director in 2018. In the same vein as Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting sequel, there’s a strong air of melancholy in the comedic tone which separates it from the previous outings. With the characters now fully immersed in middle age, there’s a sad reflectiveness in the nostalgia about how their lives have turned out. Thankfully, Jay and Silent Bob are never far away to lift the mood with their comic relief.
As the central filmmaking plot takes shape, the script becomes even more self-aware, becoming a clever meta satire of the first film in the series. Conversations between Dante and Randal are as amusing as ever, littered with pop culture references and in-jokes that will reward the fan-base of their work. Some of the juvenile humour is outdated and uncomfortable, but it’s very much in-keeping with the offbeat style Smith has always been associated with.
In the years that have passed since the original instalment, the improvements in low-budget production, aside from some distracting sound design, have surpassed the progression made on acting. The dialogue delivery still feels quite am-dram, but the longstanding real-life friendship does feel evident in the more profound scenes between O’Halloran and Anderson. In a heartstring-tugging final act, the emotion might come from the looming sense of finality in our time with these characters, rather than from the performances themselves.
A fitting finale to the cult comedy trilogy, Clerks III manages the honour the original without tarnishing its legacy. “I’m not even supposed to be here” cries a disgruntled Dante in his now-mimicked mantra, but we’re very glad he showed up for work.