Kevin Smith movies can sometimes read as un-reviewable. Take in point “Clerks III,” which more often has the feel of a behind-the-scenes feature, a home movie, or a commemorative issue than a film that should be taken on its own and judged for creativity and intent. It’s good with its minimal creative aspirations, and it can be as personal for the fans as it is for him, a tear-eyed businessman who made movies you may love. That is its selling point: you won’t get much that’s new or memorable—like when you first saw “Clerks“—but you will be able to revisit the making of it.
Is “Clerks III” at least funny in its own right? Yes, at least in the warming way of seeing foul-mouthed Randal (Jeff Anderson) again, winding up grossed-out customers up from behind the counter of the Quick Stop convenience store in New Jersey, standing with his long-time buddy Dante (Brian O’Halloran). It’s equally curious and bizarre to see Randal and Dante still at the Quick Stop, like employees frozen in carbonite since reopening the store in the last movie. But Smith’s writing isn’t about doing something special with this labored depiction of arrested development, he’s too focused on just making it about “Clerks.”
There’s also a funny life change for religious Transformers fan Elias (Trevor Fehrman) from “Clerks II,” which this movie leans into as its best ongoing joke with various appearance changes, parallel to tedious jokes about NFTs and his own silent companion, Blockchain (Austin Zajur). Then there’s loitering drug dealers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), who now own the video store next door, and have naturally turned it into a THC shop. They have a few dim-witted moments of self-realization that made me chuckle.
“Clerks III” is a movie about the main characters of “Clerks” making a movie called “Inconvenience,” virtually remaking “Clerks” for us shot by shot. Randal suffers a heart attack (a “widow maker” wth 80% chance of not winning, as Smith experienced himself) and it leads to an epiphany. Poignantly, he says “I saw the whole movie of my life flash before my eyes, and you know what? It sucked.” Randal wants to make a movie about everything he’s seen at the Quick Stop, and as a former video store employee, he should know how. He hires—forces, really—Dante to become his producer, and the production will shoot inside the Quick Stop and use memories, putting the latest strain on their relationship. It’s clear when anyone reads the script as to who’s who—Dante is a “Dan T” (a funny joke), and Dante’s exes are in the mix too, like Veronica (Marilyn Ghigliotti). Eye-rolling as much as he ever does, Dante is not amused but he goes along with it.