Clerks: 10th Anniversary Edition
March 22, 2005
It’s hard to believe that the little independent film-that-could, Clerks (1994), is ten years old. Inspired by the low-budget success of Slacker (1990), Kevin Smith wrote, directed and starred in his ode to working a dead-end job as a cash-register jockey. The film was a big hit with critics and was quite successful at the box office. But it didn’t really take off until video where it was re-discovered by a much larger audience that has since supported Smith’s other View Askew movies. Miramax previously released Clerks on a decent Collector’s Edition DVD that featured all of the extras originally included on the original laser disc. They say the third time is the charm and this certainly holds true for this new edition that features three discs of material for fans to enjoy. But is it worth double dipping? Definitely.
Much to his chagrin, Dante (O’Halloran) is called in to open the Quick Stop convenience store on his day off. To make matters worse, he finds out that his ex-girlfriend, Caitlin (Spoonauer), is engaged to an Asian design major. His current girlfriend, Veronica (Ghigliotti), tells him a hilariously staggering statistic about her sexual past. And, he still has to deal with the usual riff raff that frequent his store. It’s a good thing that his best friend (and antagonist) Randal (Anderson) is also working—he’s next door at RST Video where during the odd occasion he’s actually there, he delights in giving everyone who comes in to rent a movie a hard time. Finally, loitering outside the Quick Stop is Jay (Mewes), a motormouth drug dealer and his hetero-life partner Silent Bob (Smith) a near mute who only speaks at the right moment and with profound, sage-like advice.
One of the reasons why Clerks works so well is because of its simplicity. The movie is essentially a day in the life of Dante and Randal as they interact with a colourful assortment of characters. They are instantly relatable to anyone because of their universal traits: the sarcastic best friend (Randal) and the nice guy doormat (Dante). At the core of this film is the friendship between Dante and Randal. They bicker a good part of the time but they also stick for one another through all of the ups and downs of the day.
The real strength of the movie is the extremely funny (and profane) dialogue that Smith’s characters spout. It is insanely quotable and due in large part for the sizable following that has embraced it and all of Smith’s subsequent movies. There is the requisite pop culture discussion as Dante and Randal debate the ethical merits of Return of the Jedi (1983). There is also the extremely crude, yet gut-bustingly funny dialogue that spews out of Jay’s mouth as he insults anyone near him. The way he interacts with Silent Bob is one of the main reasons for the popularity of the film (as evident in being the only characters to appear in every View Askew movie). They have a love-hate relationship (that is also mirrored in the Dante-Randal friendship) that is so entertaining to watch. Finally, there is really honest, heartfelt dialogue between Dante and Veronica about being faithful in a relationship and figuring what you want out of life. Like so many men, Dante doesn’t appreciate what is right in front of him until it is too late and this gives the film an excellent touch of pathos.
Clerks’ low budget aesthetic, with its sometimes wooden acting and non-existent camerawork, actually works in its favour, giving it a grittier more authentic feel that is missing from a lot of more polished films of this nature—including some of Smith’s later work. This is probably what appealed to the disenfranchised generation that embraced his movie. Like Slacker, Clerks spoke to a generation that was overeducated and either unemployed or working jobs that were inferior to their skill level. Smith was able to tap into the zeitgeist in such a way that still resonates to this day.
Kevin Smith has assembled a massive collection of View Askew arcana spread out over three discs.
The first DVD features the theatrical version of the movie with an audio commentary by Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, actors (and a very drunk) Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran, Walt Flanagan, and View Askew historian Vincent Peira. This was on the previous DVD and laser disc and was recorded while Smith was making Mallrats (1995). Not surprisingly, Smith dominates the track and dishes a lot of factoids and anecdotes about making Clerks. This is somewhat of a subdued track that is nowhere near as animated as the superior Mallrats one (easily the best Smith and co. have ever done).
“Enhanced Playback Track” features trivia bits that pop up on the bottom of the screen. There is a good amount of detail and frequency of factoids here.
“Clerks Lost Scene—Animated Short” features a scene that was not filmed due to budgetary constraints and shows what exactly went down during Julie Dwyer’s funeral. Smith animated this scene and brought back O’Halloran and Anderson to reprise their roles along with Joey Lauren Adams from Chasing Amy (1997)!
“The Flying Car” is a short film that Smith did for The Tonight Show while promoting Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) and reunites Dante and Randal stuck in a traffic jam.
Also included are the legendary “MTV Spots with Jay and Silent Bob” that were made to be aired in between music video blocks. Shot in 1998, there are eight spots that feature Jay and Silent Bob as they take the piss out of MTV and several of musical acts that were big at the time.
There is a theatrical trailer.
Smith directed a music video for the Soul Asylum song, “Can’t Even Tell” that was featured in his movie. Even though this was done to promote Clerks, Smith made it more than just an average video by featuring many of the characters from the movie playing roof hockey against the band.
“Clerk Restoration” is a brief look at how the sound and video was cleaned up for this new DVD. Scott Mosier and the film’s cinematographer David Klein discuss the sound and video respectively while Smith provides his own introduction, taking a well-placed jab at the notorious Star Wars restorations.
Rounding out this first disc is audition footage of O’Halloran, Anderson and Marilyn Ghigliotti trying out for the movie. Interestingly, Anderson ends up reading some of Jay’s lines.
The second DVD features an early cut of Clerks that originally debuted on the film festival circuit and includes the original, downbeat ending. If that wasn’t enough, a brand new audio/video commentary with Smith, O’Halloran, Anderson, Mosier and Mewes is also included. This track kicks things off with Mosier telling a hilarious story about seeing Smith’s mom naked while staying at his house during post-production. They all talk and joke with the ease and familiarity of being long-time close friends.
The third DVD starts off with an exhaustive feature-length Making Of documentary entitled, “Snowball Effect: The Story of Clerks.” It traces Smith’s childhood to the film’s enduring legacy today. Everyone remotely associated with the film, from Smith’s mom to Walt Flanagan, is interviewed. It’s as much a story about Smith as it is about the movie and it is this personal approach that makes this doc such a treat to watch. There are lots of great stories and insights about where characters and scenes from the movie came from. Retrospective documentaries don’t get much better than this one.
“Mae Day: The Crumbling of a Documentary with Intro by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier” is the very first short film Smith and Mosier did in film school. It was a mock documentary about their failure to interview a woman undergoing a sex change operation.
“10th Anniversary Q&A” is a 42-minute session with the core cast and crew of Clerks. Smith, with his trademark self-deprecating sense of humour