An earnest love letter to the fans of the original Clerks movie pair, Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse sees its most emotional and vulnerable side in the Clerk franchise’s third movie featuring the beloved strangelings Dante and Randal. In 1994, Smith’s feature debut, Clerks, let us into the hilarious, scarcely appropriate, and very dysfunctional world of the two best friends loving yet complaining about their monotonous, hopeless lives. With the story getting more existential in Clerks II (2006), the fans not being able to particularly relate to the theme, which has been very personal to Smith, stopped being an issue. Unlike the “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” every sequel to the original Clerks is increasingly individualized with the maker’s personal life experiences. Clerks III (2022) is not just a reunion providing a space for all the beloved, odd characters to come together for one last time–it is more Smith’s life than anything else–in all its unabashed ups and downs.
Ditching the usual bizarre situations that the two friends are known for getting into, Clerks III takes a more straightforward, more grounded approach to touch base, with the most significant theme being underlyingly explored in the movie; midlife crisis. Smith going all meta with this sequel may not work for some fans as it doesn’t have the characteristic comic relief distracting the audience from the ugly realities of Dante and Randal’s dead-end lives. But as it is, in its essence, a movie for Smith and the fans who truly love the slacker duo; unpleasantness isn’t avoided to cater to the slapstick comedy crowd and instead celebrated as the reality of life, more universal than the Clerk’s stories are known for divulging into.
Clerks III (2022): Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis
The story starts as though nothing has changed in the lives of Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and his best friend Randal (Jeff Anderson) since they bought and co-owned Quick Stop. Dante removing the gum from the padlock and entering the convenience store, followed by the group playing ice hockey on the roof, communicate the idea that despite being middle-aged, the two are still up to their usual juvenile shenanigans. Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) now own the video store and, to no one’s surprise, have named it THC. Randal has not grown up in the slightest by offending the customers with his characteristic lewd jokes and hurting the religious sentiments of Jesus-obsessed Elias (Trevor Fehrman). Elias, on the other hand, with his young sidekick Blockchain Coltrane (Austin Zajur), is oddly keeping up with the new-age cryptocurrency trend by hoping to sell Buddy Christ kites online. Annoyed with Randal’s mockery after telling the “bad thief-good thief” sermon, Elias proceeds to pray to God to spite the blasphemy. Incidentally, at that very moment, Randal has a heart attack.
Dante calls an ambulance and rushes Randal to the hospital. While Dante is scared out of his mind, Randal is busy worrying about the nurse and the doctor seeing his small penis. After frightening him with the mortality rate of the “widow-maker” heart attack he’s having, the doctor proceeds to save his life and reassures him that his penis size is, in fact, average. The doctor warns Dante about post-heart attack depression and advises him to try and keep Randal’s spirits up but not before giving Dante a real scare about his lifestyle.
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While recovering from the near-death experience, his life flashes before his eyes, and Randal decides to be proactive. He plans to use his decades of film-watching expertise and make a movie about his life in the Quick Stop. Dante reluctantly accepts the producer’s position even after discovering that he is not even one of the main characters in Randal’s story. After a moment of confusion about whether the film will be pornographic, Jay and Silent Bob also join the crew of “In Convenience.” With the auditions not going as planned, Randal decides that real people will play the characters. Overwhelmed with Randal’s manic activities, Dante runs to his wife Becky’s grave, where he is met with her ghost, who tries to motivate him to move on from the tragedy of her and their unborn child’s death and embrace new things because he is still alive.
Self-absorbed Randal, unbothered by the effects of his actions, tries to hire Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti) to play herself in his movie and is met with her wrath when she storms into the store. Dante gets in touch with his rich ex, Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith), and gives up his part of the store as collateral in order to loan the money that will budget Randal’s film. Triggered by the scene that is supposed to be shot at Mooby’s, grieving Dante has a complete meltdown. Showing up drunk for the shoot and having his misery unacknowledged by selfish Randal, Dante resorts to a heartfelt, angered monologue, telling off Randal for his insensitive actions and coldness as a friend. His speech is cut short when he collapses on the floor, has a heart attack, and gets rushed to the hospital.
Clerks III (2022): Movie Review
Kevin Smith’s View Askew productions are known for not following the standardized rules for filmmaking. The films are for the fans and the fans only. Even though the creative sets of scales that measure the success of movies may have an aversion to his incredibly meta style, Smith can not begin to have that hold any place in his list of priorities, especially for the Clerks movies. Clerks III is not for critics, it is not for people who do not love Dante and Randal, and it is definitely in no way a stand-alone comedy feature one would feel connected to. It is the very personal story of Smith, made for the audience that is knee-deep in Askewniverse.
Starting the movie with now middle-aged Dante and Randal, with their distinctive back and forth, doesn’t quite work, especially with Brian O’Halloran’s performance being too “performative” and looking more like improv than anything else. But the discomfort vanishes as soon as all the other doted-upon characters appear, giving it a reunion-y feel. Strange and oddly funny cameos brightening up the screen add to the “home movie” effect and justify Smith going all meta with his sequel. Returning stars from View Askewniverse, Ben Affleck, Donnell Rawlings, Melissa Benoist, Smith’s wife Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, and their daughter Harley Quinn Smith appearing in this comedy further strengthens the fact that it is without a doubt Smith’s movie. It may seem slightly self-indulgent for a director to make a large chunk of the film about himself. Still, Clerks III redeems itself by exploring raw emotions, often unpleasant realizations that come with growth and the burden of midlife troubles.
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Even clerks III (2022) is a movie that almost ran the risk of not getting made due to the fallout that the maker and Jeff Anderson had back when the first script was written; it is a movie that can arguably be called unfunny and definitely flawed; it is also the bravest, if not the best effort by Smith and the crew that brings dick-jokes cracking nonsensical characters beyond the level of emotionally expressive vulnerability that would not just be personal to Smith, but to anyone who sees a bit of Dante or Randal in them. O’Halloran reveals his depths as an actor when Dante is shown to be growing out of his usual self-destructive nature that was often under Randal’s influence. Smith’s own realizations of life and mortality after his heart attack, reflect through Dante’s fear of losing his friend. The haunting existential crisis that Dante is dealing with is handled with utmost sincerity and relatability. It is truly commendable how the good ol’ group communicated nostalgia without detaching it from the realities of the hollow hopelessness that is bound to come with time.
Clerks III (2022): Ending Explained
Does Randal finish his movie?
Elias, who became a satanist after Jesus didn’t answer his prayers when Randal had a heart attack, now prays to the devil for Dante’s recovery. Impatient at the hospital, Randal tells Elias that he will return and work on his movie. Disgusted by Randal’s selfishness, Elias tells him off and lets him know about the sacrifices Dante had made for him. After discovering what Dante had done to finance his movie, Randal realizes what a lousy friend he has been to someone who has always gone above and beyond for him. Heartbroken about how he has hurt his friend, Randal runs to his house and gets emotional looking at their pictures from the old days. He finishes editing his movie and plans to show it to Dante at the hospital.
Per Randal’s request, Jay and Silent Bob create a ruckus to distract the security with just enough time for him to sneak into Dante’s room with the laptop. As Dante watches the movie with a smile on his face, teary-eyed Randal comforts him by saying that he has always been the hero in Randal’s movies. Dante imagines sitting in an empty theater with Becky, watching Randal’sfilme that shows the life he has led with all its heartwarming details. Before the movie ends, he gets up with Becky and leaves without seeing the end. When Becky asks why he’s not staying to watch the final scene, Dante says with a smile that he doesn’t need to–he trusts the director. As the lights from the projector die out, Dante is seen going into endless sleep on the hospital bed.
With the whole group gathering at Dante’s funeral, one last Dante’s Inferno joke is made by Elias, giving Dante the most sincere goodbye from him. Before bidding his best friend farewell, heartbroken Randal quotes the man himself and says, “You’re not even supposed to be here today.” Back at the Quick Stop, as the mourning friends are trying to get on with their lives, Emma shows up to remind them that she now owns half of the store. To save the day, Blockchain Coltrane shows up with fabulous news. They have sold their crypto-kites and are now rich enough to waste tons of money on weed. But before getting on with their usual bizarreness, they buy off Emma’s half of the store, making her mad and driving her out. Dante’s ghost stands beside Randal, who now has to figure his way out of the troubles he usually gets into without having his best friend to fall back on.
Kevin Smith, in his real life, having a heart attack while performing is evidently one of the most significant thematic inspirations that the movie bases its storyline around. This sequel was for the characters to reunite and look back at their own stories and for the fans with decades-long loyalty to warm their hearts at sight. Randal’s film, ultimately being the very clips from the first two Clerks movies, is again the prevalent meta aspect that this “home-movie” style comedy uses to conclude the journey of the two friends, at least on a physical level; notwithstanding the possibility of Dante showing up as a ghost in the future sequels.
Kevin Smith’s voice brings a post-credit surprise for the fans and talks about how connected he feels with the characters. Having worked as convenience store clerks, Smith, Dante and Randal have never been just characters to make movies about for the story’s sake. They are him, the stories are his stories, and the emotions he wants to communicate are his own. Smith also talks about how the movie was supposed to end by narrating Randal’s future movie-making endeavors funded by crypto money. But he decided against it as he didn’t want to mess with the beautiful “I’m from New Jersey” by John Gorka bidding adieu to the audience.