Following his debut release, Clerks, Kevin Smith became an indy darling and the talk of the industry as a filmmaker to look out for. Since, Smith has crafted a filmography that is either hit or miss. While some of his films reach greatness, Chasing Amy and Dogma as examples, some entries are not just duds but plain awful – Cop Out and Tusk. Despite the ebbs and flows, Smith has remained one of my favorite filmmakers and the inspiration for the creation of this platform. 

Two years have passed since Smith’s last film, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, a movie I found charming, but I was fully aware that Smith made the film for Smith fans. With the upcoming release of Clerks III, many, including myself, would be under the impression that the film was just another way to milk the cash cow that is the Clerks brand. However, I was quite mistaken as the maestro of View Askew returns with a joyous and cathartic journey with Clerks III. A rollercoaster ride of nostalgia, laughs, and tears that stands firm as one, if not, the most personal film of Smith’s career. 

Clerks III heads back to the Quick Stop to check in on Dante and Randal, now co-owners of the very convenient store cinephiles first laid eyes on in 1994. Joining them at the Quick Stop is popular Clerks 2 character Elias. Everything feels status quo until Randal suffers a heart attack known as the “widow maker,” where only 20 percent of individuals survive. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is as Smith went through the very same heart attack a few years back. As Randal gets a second chance at life, he conceives an idea to make a film chronicling his time at the Quick Stop.

While Smith’s screenplay enters the metaverse of reshooting Clerks, the film’s nostalgia is warranted. His script opens its arms to welcome back old friends. However, rather than the continued mix of weed and dick jokes, Smith keeps those to a minimum and focuses on what the film is striving to examine – one’s mortality and life’s accomplishments. It’s a theme that will resonate with many, including myself as I often wonder about my life’s achievements and what I’d leave behind when my number is called.

The challenge of executing those themes falls at the feet of Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson, and they are certainly up to the task. In what I’d call a career-best for both actors, Anderson and O’Halloran pour their hearts out in this film. While their comedic chemistry remains, Clerks III offers so much more. Randal survives his heart attack, telling Dante,

“I wish I had a life worth f—ing saving. I always hoped that my life was building towards something. Turns out it was just the hospital.”

Anderson’s performance is deep and emotional in this film. While the third act offers some of the best acting of his career, it’s best to be experienced rather than spoiled in a review. O’Halloran is a force who leaves it all on the table as an individual dealing with pain and grief and questioning what’s the point in living.

Clerks III is not just about one individual person but that as a duo Dante and Randal have made an impact on the world, especially through the bonds they formed with each other, with their customers, Jay and Silent Bob, every returning actor from Clerks, and most notably with the viewing audience.

Learan Kahanov’s cinematography deserves our praise as he effortlessly transitions through color and black and white beautifully. Remember the conversation between Dante and Veronica in Clerks? Well, it’s seen in a brand new light and in the words of Smith and Mark Bernardin, chef’s kiss. Along with Kahanov’s lens, the needle drops in the film are quite a delight. I’ve never been more affected by My Chemical Romance than I was by the use of “Black Parade” in the film’s opening credits.

Clerks III was not the Kevin Smith film I expected, but it’s one that’s not to be missed. Not since Chasing Amy have I been so engaged in the hijinks on screen and Smith’s screenplay and its themes. It’s a film that will leave cinephiles contemplating its message for quite some time. Unlike Dante’s thoughts in Clerks, I can confidently say that we were supposed to be here today.

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