By Jack McLaughlin
“Clerks 3” is the passion project of filmmaker Kevin Smith and is a conclusion to a trilogy of movies that started with his debut film “Clerks” in 1994.
The story brings us back to the Quick Stop convenience store, where Dante and Randal are still working after the events of the second movie 16 years ago. After surviving a near fatal heart attack, Randal enlists the help of his fellow employees to help him make a movie about their lives.
It’s been a long time since Smith has delivered on a project that’s been nearly as good as “Clerks,” so it shouldn’t be surprising that this film has glaring issues that hold it back from being good.
The concept of recreating memorable moments in the characters’ lives gives the story an excuse to be heavily reliant on references to the previous two films in this trilogy. Unfortunately, this results in a series of unfunny moments that pale in comparison to the scenes they are trying to reference.
Humor is where this movie suffers greatly. With a fantastic cast that have worked together in these films before, it hurts to see their talent wasted on a script that makes eye-rolling jokes about NFTs that will feel dated in just a few years.
Jeff Anderson as Randal in the first two installments gave a witty performance with terrific observant humor. His performance here feels like those qualities have been stripped from him, and what’s left is a crushingly unfunny character who unfortunately has the most screen time.
The iconic duo Jay and Silent Bob return for an attempt of comedic relief, but their familiar routine of stoner humor ends up making you realize how unamusing they are, especially considering they’ve been doing the same jokes for almost 30 years.
There were a few attempts at humor that worked. My favorite being a reference to Kevin Smith’s brief work on the TV series “Degrassi” which was the only moment the film got a genuine laugh out of me.
Where “Clerks 3” excels is the more dramatic scenes that are sprinkled throughout the barrage of annoying comedic bits.
Brian O’Halloran’s performance as Dante continues to be the most interesting character Kevin Smith has ever written. The internal struggle of hating his current situation in life yet being too comfortable to try changing it, serves as a contrast to Randal trying to make the most of the time he has left by making his movie.
Dante’s story not being the main focus is the film’s biggest missed opportunity. There’s always a noticeable boost in both writing and performances once it transitions away from the filmmaking plot with Randal and it’s baffling how little it’s focused on.
The climax of the film sees O’Halloran giving the best performance I’ve seen in any of the films in this series. His years-long anguish with his life finally being unleashed outside of his thoughts was a riveting moment that feels out of place in comparison to the quality of the film surrounding it.
The last 20 or so minutes intertwine these two stories into an ending that just barely misses the emotional blow that it was going for. Anytime there was any sort of heavy emotion, it is undercut by an unfunny quip that will take you out of the moment entirely.
The unsatisfying ending will leave you with a dull feeling when it’s over and just irritate you that this is the conclusion to the story of these characters.
“Clerks 3” always felt like a gamble of whether it would work considering Kevin Smith’s poor track record and the current age of the actors. It’s safe to say this film is about 10 years too late and what was released did not live up to the expectations despite a few decent moments.
Rating D: I assure you, it wasn’t worth the wait.