CLERKS (1998) 

Brian O'Halloran
Jeff Anderson
Marilyn Ghigliotti
Lisa Spoonhauer
Jason Mewes
Kevin Smith
Scott Mosier

Kevin Smith



Time: 92 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Comedy

CLERKS is the debut film of Kevin Smith, a director whose films are either loved or hated, but rarely boring. Not one to shy away from controversy, Smith tells it like it is, or at least lets his characters speak their minds, regardless of the consequences. An independent film festival darling, CLERKS won many awards for it's open, honest and nasty sense of humor. Smith admits that his films aren't much to look at – which is especially true with CLERKS – but you won't really care because you'll be laughing too hard. This film was shot on a shoestring budget and it shows. The editing and camera work aren't of the highest caliber either. However, if this doesn't make it onto your comedy best list, you don't know what funny is.

It's a simple enough story. The film follows a day in the life of two clerks – Dante (O'Halloran), who works at the local convenience store and Randal (Anderson), a slacker who mans the counter at the video store next door. Randal isn't Dante's favorite person, but they've become friends over the years, even though Randal's complete lack of responsibility is constantly getting Dante into trouble. This day in particular is supposed to be Dante's day off, but he's called in to fill in for someone else. While hanging out behind the counter, he ponders his future, mainly due to the pressure of his girlfriend Veronica, who's getting tired of dating someone that's had the same job since high school. She wants him to grow up and go to college so they can have a real life together.

He's not so sure he wants to go to college, never mind spend the rest of his life with her. He knows being a clerk is not his life's goal, he's just unsure where he wants to go from here...and is not really in a hurry to find out. Randal is of no help what-so-ever. He dislikes pretty much everything and everyone who could potentially destroy his perfect existence – working at the video store and hanging out with Dante. He gets Dante thinking about his high school sweetheart Caitlin and what his life would have been like had they stayed together. This opens up a can of worms, Dante has a hard time getting the lid back on. It's a day that goes from bad to worse, with Dante barely holding onto his sanity. It's a miracle the store isn't burned to the ground. In fact, the day ends with a scenario you won't soon, if ever, forget.

"You know what the real tragedy of this day is? I'm not even supposed to be here today!"

The reason I think Smith's films are so successful, at least the reason I like them, is because he creates memorable characters you identify with and want to spend time watching. You'd think this was easy, but if that were true all movies would be entertaining and interesting. He gets name actors to be in his movies, because they know they're going to play a part unlike anything they've ever done before. After seeing CLERKS, you will never forget Randal and Dante. They live and breathe, sprouting some of the most brutally honest and profane dialogue you'll probably ever hear onscreen. Nobody uses cursing in quite the same manner as Smith, or makes it seem as appropriate and necessary to the story. It's also just damn funny. It's a credit to Jeff Anderson that you come away liking Randal, who has to be one of the most self-centered, opinionated, obnoxious characters ever. He's also incredibly funny, which helps a great deal.

Even though every other word is a swear, at least it seems that way some of the time, CLERKS is not just a potty-mouthed slacker comedy. It is THE potty-mouthed slacker comedy. It also has a lot of heart and intelligent dialogue, which goes a long way with films of this genre. Smith loves these guys and wants you to love them to. If you're looking for a comedy that will make you laugh at loud, this is one you should race out and rent. If you can see the DVD version all the better. Smith is a filmmaker who's actually supporting the format and his DVD's are just jam-packed with great extras. CLERKS has fewer goodies than his more recent films, but it's still worth checking out.

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