earlier than “Clerks III” begins feasting on itself like a Cheetos-craving stoner, the discursive punch of Kevin Smith’s return to the crassly philosophical neo-vaudeville of quick cease denizens Dante, Randal, Jay and Silent Bob recollects the sprightly ding of a comfort retailer doorbell saying a properly-acknowledged buyer.
in point of fact, that sound may even signify an exit. Existential fact weighs on Dante (Brian O’Halloran) as quickly as we study that his love Becky (Rosario Dawson) has died as a outcome of the occasions of “Clerks II.” (Dawson returns for a dream sequence.) however loss of life is a extra pressing concern for the nearing-50 Randal (Jeff Anderson) when he’s spurred to midlife reassessment after struggling a coronary heart assault. author-director Smith famously survived one in 2018, and the prospect that this private element will chart new profanely amusing and emotional territory for these likable ranters feels promising.
till, that is, Randal’s energized purpose leads him to announce his purpose of making a film about his quick cease world, and we quickly understand Smith is about to meta-make “Clerks” over as quickly as extra. The View Askew reliable might lap up the re-creations, cameos, behind-the-scenes lore and legacy riffs, however this universe folding in on itself is hardly humorous or enlightening regarding the inventive course of, solely a self-referential guidelines. At one level, Smith as Silent Bob — however actually as Smith himself, disparaged director of artless movies — speaks as a lot as attest he’s always understood aesthetics, a wink as bitterly defensive as Woody Allen’s “early humorous ones” gag from “Stardust recollections.” (You’d assume by now that Smith would make artlessness a badge of honor.)
When he swerves to place mortality entrance and center as quickly as extra on the tip, however, it’s a frank reminder that narrative adeptness and sentimentality aren’t sturdy suits, both. The emotion seize is understandable however dealt with like final-second seasoning. One wonders if ninety minutes of purely foul-mouthed, shaming exchanges on religion, crypto, Satanism, intercourse, getting older and modern tradition franchises — what was hinted at early on — would have been simply as nostalgic, extra true to type and probably extra entertaining than Smith’s half-baked bid to remind us of when his navel-gazing was indie gold.
“Clerks III” might not be the final go-spherical for these characters, however it absolutely in all probability ought to be if its lack of ability to make inventory-taking richly humorous or significant is any indication. extra of a recognition reel for a fan convention than a film, it indicators a profession that’s traveled faraway from its first evocation of a uncooked seriocomic intelligence about small-to-bursting lives. Now, it’s a closed loop solely for die-hards.
Rated: R, for pervasive language, crude sexual supplies and drug content material
working time: 1 hour, forty minutes
taking half in: on the complete launch by way of Sept. 25 through Fathom occasions