Hilarious and incredibly emotional, Clerks III is a fantastic conclusion to an unlikely trilogy and Kevin Smith’s best film since the original Clerks in 1994.
I was honestly beginning to wonder if Clerks III would ever see the light of day and even when the trailer came out, a part of me was still questioning if it was real. The third installment in Kevin Smith’s Clerks trilogy and the eighth live action entry into his fictional universe, the View Askewniverse, spent years in development following the release of Clerks II in 2006. For a long time, it appeared that the threequel would never get made, especially after Jeff Anderson (who was also hesitant to return for Clerks II) originally opted not to reprise his role as Randal Graves.
Following Smith’s near fatal heart attack, he returned to the View Askewniverse with Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019) and eventually rewrote the Clerks III script and got Jeff Anderson on board. There are obviously more things that happened in order for this film to get made, but those keys are arguably the most instrumental factors. Finally: Clerks III is on the big screen via Fathom Events screenings in partnership with Lionsgate from September 13th through the 18th. The film is also being taken on the road and screened as part of Clerks III: The Convenience Tour in select markets throughout September and October and features an in-person Q&A session with Kevin Smith. So, is Clerks III worth the 16 year wait? It was even better than I, as a longtime fan, could have ever expected.
Clerks III finds Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal Graves (Jeff Anderson) still working alongside Elias Grover (Trevor Fehrman) at the Quick Stop, which Dante and Randal co-own. When Randal survives a heart attack, he decides to make a movie that centers around his and Dante’s lives working at the convenience store.
My opinion on Clerks II (2006), as I detailed in my View Askewniverse ranking and retrospective for Loud and Clear, changes with every watch. Clerks (1994) is one of my favorite films ever made, and yet my feelings on the 2006 sequel are very up and down. Clerks III, save for a few moments where jokes did not land, is without question Kevin Smith’s best film since his first, back in 1994. It is not filled to the brim with hit or miss cameos like you saw in Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, though there are cameos inthe Clerks threequel. I also do not consider Clerks III to be as crude as its predecessor, the stoner comedy, sex jokes, and whatnot are still there, but Clerks II sort of went over the line with those things in a way that I felt Clerks did not. This trilogy capper has a lot more in common with the original in terms of the cleverness of its comedy.
Clerks III also takes a page from Jay and Silent Bob Reboot and adds a meta element to its story by having a post heart attack Randal decide to essentially make 1994’s Clerks within the View Askewniverse. Like with Reboot, being meta works well (especially if you are a Kevin Smith fan; if not, your enjoyment of these moments may vary) while being better in Clerks III. We are able to catch up with Dante and Randal at another pivotal portion of their lives, and we watch as these two attempt to make a movie that we, as audience members and fans, have already seen. Smith is taking from his own personal experiences, that is when he is at his best. This obviously includes the revelations that he had post heart attack, which emerge through Randal, but as the film moves on, there is so much more. He also reflects on Dante and Randal, and the film that catapulted his career way back in 1994 through Randal’s film.
There are meta moments, like when Randal discusses the place of Jay and Silent Bob in his film, likening them to C3-PO and R2-D2 of Star Wars. The callbacks to the original Clerks and the View Askewniverse are littered throughout and honestly, they all work well and are funny. Smith also crafts this film as a sort of love letter to the indie film genre that made him, as we see the ins and outs of regular people like Randal and Dante trying to make a film on a small budget. He is not making fun of the genre, the jokes made are not laughing at indie films or filmmakers: this is a reflection of his own experience making Clerks in 1994 and being an indie filmmaker that is kind of sweet.
The real meat of Clerks III comes from Dante and Randal’s arcs, which are the heart of the film. As mentioned, Smith has a lot of revelations related to his heart attack come out through Randal and for the second time and first since Clerks: Jeff Anderson’s Randal Graves made me cry and reflect on my journey with these characters, and with life in general. I recalled 2018 when Smith had his heart attack. At the time, I was fresh out of college, depressed, and struggling with finding work. I may not know Kevin Smith personally, but he is a person that I look up to and respect. So, after finding out about his heart attack I was just shaken. Even after nearly dying though, Smith managed to inspire me with his Kevin Smith: Silent But Deadly stand upspecial, filmed the night of his heart attack. Clerks III brought me back to that place and made me so grateful for how far I had come in the years since. Randal’s arc is powerful enough to bring so many emotions out of the audience and Anderson crushes his return to the role.
Dante gets a subplot that I will not dare spoil here, but it is just as impactful. Brian O’Halloran has never been better in a role that he has played since 1994. Dante’s Journey helps remind audiences why they fell in love with the Clerks films and Dante and Randal in the first place: it was not just their wit provided by the script, it was a level of heart put into these characters by Smith as a writer, and O’Halloran and Anderson as actors. We related to them in some way, and felt everything they felt, cried when they cried, that sort of thing. O’Halloran makes Smith’s words jump off the page because he clearly cares about the character as much as we do. The arcs of Dante and Randal allow Clerks III to feel as fresh and personal as Clerks did in 1994.
Though I have not mentioned Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) as much, they are very much in the movie. Smith does not overuse them in a story that is very much about Dante and Randal, but they are in Clerks III when needed and are good comic relief. Speaking of which, Trevor Fehrman’s Elias is back and provides funny moments alongside his, shall we say, interesting friend, Blockchain Coltrane (Austin Zajur). If there is one major knock I have on this film, it is that some of the modern pop culture references do not always land. Case in point: I do not know why Zajur’s character had to be named Blockchain other than to make a modern reference. There are a few moments like that here, where it feels like these references are included for the sake of it. When the references fit the characters, like with Randal’s various Star Wars discussions, they are great.
Clerks III is without question a fitting conclusion to the trilogy. It may be really meta in a way that could turn non-fans of Smith’s work off, and the modern references might not always land, but it packs such an emotional punch. Kevin Smith tells a personal story that will pull at the heartstrings of his fans and make them laugh but it also could touch the hearts of outsiders to his work as well. As personal as the story gets, there are still hilarious moments, and Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson give performances that are excellent in ways that not even I was expecting. All these elements come together to make Clerks III as special as Clerks was. That may sound too good to be true, but I assure you, it very much is.
Clerks III is now available to watch globally in theaters. Read our View Askewniverse ranking and retrospective!