The movie “Clerks” does not stand up to repeated viewing. Upon further review, the dialog is contrived, the characters are grating, self involved and one dimensional, and the performances are amateurish. In addition, the photography throughout is unyieldingly flat, which creates a cramped and claustrophobic vibe. Perhaps this was intentional on the part of director Kevin Smith, the setting is a convenience store after all, but whether it was intended or not, it creates a level of subconscious anxiety in the viewer which doesn’t make for a pleasurable viewing experience.
All of this makes me wonder why I was so enamored of this movie upon the first time I saw it, back in 1994. Probably my standards were lower back then. In the film’s defense (and defense of the younger, more naive me) there are some clever observations and worthy punch lines. The “independent” film quality, that is the low production values and informal direction and presentation, were unlike anything I’d seen before, and that was intriguing. Plus Smith did do a good job of capturing the general tone, and meter of the conversations engaged in by those in the smart ass subculture of my generation (of which I am an alumnus).
All that being said, re-watching the movie “Clerks” is no way to spend 90 minutes of your life. Maybe if you’ve never seen it before, you could rationalize away the time investment as filing a prerequisite from the cultural back catalog of irony. But repeated viewings yield no new understanding of the universe or of the general human condition, which is the only reason why anyone ever sees any movie (whether they know it or not). Instead “Clerks” just serves to remind me of who I once was and of what I once thought was hilarious, and this causes a fleeting existential cringe.
So imagine my surprise in running across Comedy Central last Sunday morning, which was showing a 3 hour marathon of the short-lived ABC cartoon series “Clerks” and finding it to be outstanding. The animation was stylized and visually interesting and the plot lines were complex and sly. I saw two of the episodes and they satirically touched on (though never ponderously landed on) topics such as race, sex, drugs, sexual orientation, and gratuitous celebrity bashing. The characters, which consist of the same crew from the movie (and all voiced by the actors from the movie) were no longer self reverential, instead they were engaged in parody of themselves and everything I came dislike about them in the first place. Most importantly, the cartoons were genuinely funny, from start to finish.
Unfortunately, only six episodes of the Clerks cartoon were ever produced. And as of now there are no plans for any broadcasting of these episodes (the Comedy Central presentation was a one time only event). However, video clips are available to be seen at the Comedy Central web site and the DVD is on sale through the Kevin Smith View Askew Productions Web site. As of now, “Clerks--The Cartoon” carries my unqualified endorsement. Check back with me in 8 years for any reflective existential cringe updates.