Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Kevin Smith has been a favorite director of mine for over a decade now, yet his original Clerks movie has never been one I’ve revisited over and over again. That said, it is still a career-defining comedy, and eventually one of the most successful indie movies ever made. Now, in the aftermath of a heart attack and near-death experience, Smith returns to his origins with a meditative, hilarious, and beautifully realized meta-sequel to 2006’s Clerks II. Not only is this one of Kevin Smith’s best movies, but for me, Clerks III is easily one of 2022’s best dramedies.

Clerks III starts the same way as the previous two films, with Dante (Brian O’Halloran) opening up the Quick Stop, which he now co-owns with best friend Randall (Jeff Anderson). Much of their daily routine has stayed the same—they still play hockey together on the roof, make fun of problematic customers, and go back and forth over pop culture references. Elias (Trevor Fehrman), who used to work with them at Mooby’s, made the leap to Quick Stop, too! Now, Elias is an obsessive Jesus freak in the Christian Crypto Club with his very own version of Silent Bob, Brian (Austin Zajur). Speaking of Silent Bob (Smith), he and Jay (Jason Mewes) have their own weed spot next door that was formerly the video store Randall worked at. 

In the midst of a heated debate with Elias, Randall has a massive heart attack, and is rushed away for surgery. Dante tries to stay calm as he is haunted by flashbacks of rushing his former flame, Becky (Rosario Dawson), to the very same hospital. Elias has a whole breakdown, and changes his allegiance to Satan rather than Jesus in a last-ditch effort to save Randall’s life. Faced with his own mortality and only a 20% chance of survival, Randall still manages to come out of his ordeal alive. The surgeon insists that Dante do whatever it takes over the next few months to get Randall’s spirits up. While his life flashed before his eyes, Randall saw his own life’s story, and thus comes the impetus of a fantastic idea: make a movie out of his journey.

Forgoing $10k in late fees, Randall manages to get Jay and Silent Bob to allow filming some scenes in their THC store; Elias and Brian will be in charge of sound, now fully embracing Satan; Silent Bob vows to shoot the movie in black and white to “neutralize” the garish colors of the QuickStop; and Dante is forced to get funding for the project by borrowing money from his unbearable ex, Emma (Jennifer Scwalbach Smith). After a long audition process that allows for a wealth of celebrity cameos, Randall opts for the major players to act as themselves. Trevor Fehrman’s Elias often steals the show, in a different elaborate themed costume nearly every time we see him. The passion both in front of and behind the camera can be felt in every single moment. As Smith recreates exact frames of Clerks, the audience is transported back to a simpler, more black-and-white time. Not only that, but Clerks III serves as a heartfelt mediation on one’s life legacy. 

Love, loss, friendship, and living life to the fullest are the central themes here, and as someone who lost my mother recently, they really hit home. Dante cannot shake Becky, or the death of his unborn daughter Grace back in 2006. All these years later, Dante is being forced to relive memories and moments of his own life, which runs parallel to Randall. Randall thinks he is telling his own tale, but Dante has always been so intertwined that they are practically brothers. Rosario Dawson has a significant role here, one that was the cause for the majority of the tears shed. “As long as you’re alive, you can always start another chapter in the story of your life” is meaningful and significant in a way I had never expected from Kevin Smith.

Beyond Becky, Clerks III feels like a culmination of everything Kevin Smith has achieved up until this point. Disregarding his annoying critics, Smith has crafted a touching film that stays true to his comedic sensibilities, and at the same time offers a sentimental and note-perfect closure to the saga of Clerks that has followed Smith around since 1994. With even a passable connection to these characters, I would suggest bringing tissues. Clerks III solidifies Kevin Smith’s indie boy street cred, and puts the series to rest in a stunning finale that stayed with me long after the credits ended. Be sure to stick around for Smith’s own meditation on what Clerks III truly means to him.

Clerks III takes a final curtain call on Smith’s storied career when it releases exclusively in theaters through Fathom Events on September 13th and September 15th.

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