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Saturday, September 16, 2006

CLERKS 2 and some quick thoughts on Kevin Smith's previous films

Clerks 2 poster

Get this: My name, yes, MY NAME, is in the credits of Clerks 2. Just sit through the normal credits, wait for the tens and thousands of names listed as 'Mooby's (MYSPACE) Friends' to appear, the names are arranged in alphabetical order (based on the last names), so it does take quite a while until my name (EDMUND YEO, if you're the type who surfs at sites without looking at sidebars) pops up. I didn't really expect that to happen when I saw this with Justin two week ago, in fact, I have already forgotten about this 'Clerks 2 Get In The Credits Contest' on Myspace, so it was a pleasant surprise, just like the movie itself.

I started collecting Kevin Smith's films back in 2002-2003, not long after watching 'Jay And Silent Bob Strikes Back, I was intrigued by the fact that all his films take place in the same universe, and Jay and Silent Bob were in every single one of it. pAfter watching all of them with Alex (he's Professor Alan Wong in my webcomics), I decided that I liked them. Of course, like most people (including Kevin himself), I think Kevin Smith's a better writer than a director, and his films belong to the love it (you love its humour, and you like how the characters seem to speak out to you) or hate it (you are offended by the gross-out sex jokes, you felt that his works are definitely too lowbrow) variety. On the other hand, the best performances of Ben Affleck's career had often been in Kevin Smith films.

Just some quick reviews on what I've thought of his previous films:

CLERKS = Yeap, great film. Introduced to Kevin Smith and the View Askewniverse for the very first time.

MALLRATS = Meh, pretty forgettable. Has some funny moments, but never bothered rewatching it. My least favourite Kevin Smith film (... yes, I like it even less than JERSEY GIRL)

CHASING AMY = Generally regarded as his best film. Tied with CLERKS as my favourite Kevin Smith film. Has surprising emotional depth and poignant moments. Definitely Ben Affleck's best film.

DOGMA = Funny like hell. But admittedly forgettable. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are great as the renegade angels (one reckless and murderous, the other kind and timid... until a very awesome sudden role-reversal towards the end). Alanis Morrisette plays God!

JAY AND SILENT BOB STRIKES BACK = It's the first Kevin Smith film I've seen. Unfortunately, my memory of it is pretty hazy since i've only seen it once. Obviously, I like it, otherwise, I wouldn't start tracking down the other Kevin Smith films, right?

JERSEY GIRL = No, this is not a good film, but I don't think it's THAT horrible either. The problem with it is that it's a bit too conventional and Hollywood-ish. Lacks the edge you usually expect from Kevin Smith. But hey, he killed Jennifer Lopez in the first ten minutes of the film, that's a cool. (of course, this film feels empty since Jay and Silent Bob weren't in it)

Now, this brings us back to CLERKS 2, a film I admittedly have mixed feelings on when its production was announced. Can Kevin Smith recapture the magic? Or will this be another one of those god-awful sequels which not only make you want to weep, but also taint the memories of the original?

Thankfully, for me, this is one of the better Kevin Smith films, and the most emotional one since Chasing Amy. It was great to see Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) again, they remain just as likeable as they were in the first film. After Randal accidentally set the Quick Stop convenience store on fire, the two ended up working in a MOOBY'S fastfood restaurant for a year (Jay and Silent Bob are still around, selling marijuana). This film focuses on Dante's very last day in the restaurant before moving out to Florida with his domineering fiancee. But is that really what he wants? Indecisive and weak-willed, Dante had not matured much since the first film, the improvements he wanted to bring upon his life are superficial at best. Is he willing to leave New Jersey? Leaving his lifelong buddy, Randal, and Becky (Rosario Dawson), Dante's boss, whom he was very close to, behind?

Of course, what is a Kevin Smith film without some pop-cultural references? Rounding up the main cast is 19-year-old isolated home-schooled Christian Transformer geek Elias (Trevor Fehrman). And being a hardcore Lord of the Rings fan, Elias did get into an intense Star Wars vs. Lord of the Rings debate with Randal (a Star Wars fan). Although gay Lord of the Rings jokes aren't fresh (come on, even I myself am convinced that Frodo left in the end because the heartache he suffered was more figurative than literal, watching Sam marry another woman was too much for him), neither are those complaints about the endlessness of Return of the King, it's still funny like hell to see those on an actual film.

Oh, a here's a video of the debate:

And yes, the sex jokes are back, and this time, it involves bestiality interspecies erotica! So it's not for the faint-hearted. There are cameos of Ben Affleck and Jason Lee too, unfortunately, they weren't playing characters of previous View Askewniverse films.

But like I said, underneath its crass jokes and gross out humour, it's still a film with a heart, and this is what makes Clerks 2 so good. The nostalgic elements that bring back memories of the previous films, the two main characters becoming more complex than viewers believed them to be, maturing before our eyes. It's sentimental and sweet, and unexpectedly touching towards the end, and it proved my point that Kevin Smith's a fine writer (and also maturing as a director... since he did, er, stage a big-scale musical dance sequence).

(However, the sentimentality MIGHT turn you off, since I have a friend of mine complaining that Kevin Smith had become too tame in Clerks 2.)

This film made me crave for more View Askewniverse films, I definitely want to see more of Jay and Silent Bob. However, if this is truly going to be the epilogue (I believe Kevin Smith said that Jay And Silent Bob Strikes Back is the 'conclusion', while Clerks 2 is the 'epilogue' of the View Askewniverse series), it's a good way to go.

In my opinion, Kevin Smith's greatest achievement is not his creative works, but the relationship he has forged with his fans by using the Internet as a medium. Definitely more personal and down-to-earth than most big-named bloggers you can think of, his blogs (this is his official one, this is his Myspace one, both have the same content, just a matter of whether you want to post your feedback on his official forums, or via Myspace) are regularly updated, and their entries concerning mostly his personal life, filmmaking, the film business and many other things are really insightful. While it won't guarantee immediate mainstream success, it's still effective marketing.

It also makes me wonder whether I should cross-post my entries here onto my Myspace blog (and even my Friendster one). Hmmmmm...

Here's a trailer of Clerks 2

By the way... Here's JASON MEWES' (Jay) MYSPACE PAGE!

Here's how I currently rank the Kevin Smith films.

1. (tied) Clerks
1. (tied) Chasing Amy
2. Clerks 2
3. Dogma
4. Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back
5. Jersey Girl
6. Mallrats.

So, what do you guys think of Kevin Smith? Don't horrify me by telling me this review of mine is the first time you've ever heard of him!