As a film critic, you try hard to check all of your personal and emotional biases at the door when watching a movie for the first time. That way you can give others as unvarnished a take on the movie as is possible.
I found this to be a pretty much impossible task with “Clerks III.”
I saw the original “Clerks” while living in the dorms during my freshman year of college and, like a bolt of lightning, it struck me at the perfect time and place.
Before then, I only thought of movies as these grand, artistic endeavors where buckets of time and money were thrown into producing entertainment for the masses.
But here was this odd thing with no-name actors that looked like it was filmed on a closed-circuit security camera. And then the characters sounded just like my friends and I, having pseudo-intellectual conversations about pop culture and cracking lewd jokes.
“Clerks” made me realize that movies could be anything for anybody. The inmates could run the asylum, which was an incredibly exciting thought for a young man about to be set loose upon the world. The movie quickly became one of my favorites.
Writer/director Kevin Smith went on to have a long, successful career as an independent filmmaker, creating his own goofball cinematic universe along the way.
He even revisited the characters from “Clerks” with a bigger budget in 2006 with “Clerks II.”
Everything has come full circle with “Clerks III,” as our titular heroes return (along with pretty much literally everyone else from the first two films), as Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are now co-owners of the Qwick Stop and working behind the same counter they manned in the 90s.
Things are upended when Randal has a heart attack and decides he wants to leave behind a legacy by making an autobiographical movie, which is essentially just him making “Clerks.” The result is an unabashed celebration of the original film.
So is “Clerks III” any good? I mean, probably not. It’s self-referential to the point that most of the jokes are just recycled from the first movie and the clunky acting stands out even more now that everyone is 30 years older and not a bunch of plucky upstarts taking their first stab at the movie business.
But even still, I loved every minute of it.
Smith suffered his own heart attack a few years ago that resulted in wholesale lifestyle changes and weight loss. He doesn’t flinch when having his characters stare down the barrel at their own mortality and ask the question of how do you make a life worth living when you no longer have youth and promise as a fallback plan?
Ultimately “Clerks III” is a story of friendship as Dante and Randal wallow in the agony and ecstasy of a life-long relationship and come to realize that there are some ties that can’t be cut even if you wanted to.
I had a good friend who died last year (who I met in those very same dorms where I first saw “Clerks”) and I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about him a lot as I watched this movie as it hammered home that fact that the most important friendships in your life stay with you no matter what.
So should you watch “Clerks III?” I’m literally the last person you should ask, but I will say this: I couldn’t be happier that I got to see it.
“Clerks III” is rated R for pervasive language, crude sexual material and drug content.