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This week:
Clerks 2

Filthy says:
"Shut the fuck up already."

How long have I been at this? Eight or nine years now? Good fucking God that's a long time to be doing the same shtick without really getting any better at it. I sort of feel like Jerry Lewis, except I have no desire to make The Day the Clown Cried. My tenure is depressing to think about, and probably one of the reasons I drink so damn much. Right up there with the fact that I really, really like drinking a lot. It makes me feel invincible. Fuck, I wish I had better things to think about, but I don't get cable TV, so my imagination is boxed in.

I should know better and I should have moved on already. I'm a fucking failure, though. Not moving on is what failures do best. Kevin Smith's a failure, too, but on a much more public stage than mine. Mine is just atop a dumpster behind the Arvada Tavern, although the lighting is first-rate. Because Smith is a flop, people expect me to identify with him. That's bullshit. I can identify with a loser who does it purely for the love of screwing shit up. But Smith has commercialized his crappiness, and I'm no more likely to root for him than I am for the Bangladeshi who assembles my underwear to screw up and put the wiener flap on the ass side. When I pay someone for a product, I expect them to at least be competent. Unless it's community theater; the more mistakes the better there.

With Clerks 2 Smith has rehashed his mediocre first movie, now twelve years into his career. He tried to move on, and some say up, but failed with amateurish talkies like Dogma (appeals mainly to the adamantly ignorant), or schmaltzy, insincere bullshit like Jersey Girl. Now, though, rather than try again at growing up, he did the only thing besides quitting altogether: regress back to the start. It's like a really stupid guy who struggles in high school, so at eighteen, goes back to sixth grade because, "Hey, I'm really good at this one!" Why take on a challenge when there's a warm seat for you in the back of the junior high classroom?

Smith opens Clerks 2 with a mediocre end-of-career Talking Heads song from 1988, as though to proclaim, "Hey, I'm so out of touch I had no idea there have been better, more current songs on the topic of surburban sprawl since then." Not that it matters, the movie has zero to do with suburban sprawl. Using mostly the same tired-ass actors who also haven't gotten any better (or much other work) in the last twelve years, Smith returns to Leonardo, NJ, to see what happened to Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson, two shiftless convenience store workers. Their store is burning to the ground as the movie opens. Perhaps that's meant to be symbollic of Smith burning that sophomoric phase of his career. If it is, it's not true.

Now, having moved laterally from the convenience store to a fast food restaurant, the 33-year-old O'Halloran is torn between two women, neither defined much. Rosario Dawson is his boss in the restaurant, who spouts some unconvincing shit about not believing in love, and who is stuck at the fast food joint out of the goodness of her heart. Holy shit is Dawson beautiful, and a hell of a lot better than the material she's working with. Jennifer Schwalback Smith is the fiancee (and also Smith's real-life wife). She's supposed to be the beautiful girl with all her shit together, the dream wife who is going to wipe O'Halloran's nose and inspire him to become something. She has a sort of hard, Kim-Gordonesque look to her that betrays the soccer-mom type she's supposed to be portraying. She looks more like a broad from a second-tier MILF video.

Things like character and the appropriateness of the actors don't matter to Smith, though. He'd rather hire his pals and play "moviemaker party" than actually seek out fresh and competent talent or put together a competently lit and edited movie. We as consumers are told by his wheezing, stringy-haired, frequently fat and alone fans that we either "get it" or not. Apparently, it would be rude to ask Smith to actually put in the effort in to fix the shit he's bad at.

O'Halloran is planning to head to Florida with his fiancee and run her father's car wash. That is meant to represent growing up and taking direction. The problem is he likes Dawson so much he's tempted to stay and continue boning her on the restaurant's prep table (no, we don't get to see that). Things go topsy-turvy when he has impregnated Dawson, and she spends a weepy scene looking dolefully at an abortion clinic. Now he knows he must stay with her, and, of course, he does. And this, somehow represents a more profound level of growing up. He is finally, taking control of his destiny, apparently.

But why? Why the fuck would O'Halloran grow up? Nobody grew up in the first Clerks, so why is important now? Is Smith depressed by the more realistic fates his own creations should face? Or is it because Smith would like them to grow up, but just hasn't learned how to handle real emotion or genuine transformation without relying to cornball horseshit? To be fair, growing up would be fine, if Smith had a clue how. he doesn;'t though, so the scenes dealing with sincere feelings are schmaltzy horseshit like rooftop dancing lessons, awkward exposition, and the after-school special dramatic touch of a character blurting out "I'm pregnant!" In fact, nothing is ever shown everything is said, which makes for a talky, and frequently unbelievable, story.

It's not like Smith gives a rip about plot. The schmaltz is just the chicken fat holding together the tedious, self-aware diatribes, gross-out jabs at vulgarity and make-believe arguments. His plotting is the kind where, if a cake is introduced into the story, you know it'll end up in someone's face (this is good comedy?), and if a man shows up for a sex show with a donkey and says "Kelly" comes out later, then you know the donkey is Kelly and the man fucks her. It's obvious he spent a lot longer writing the conflict about Transformer toys then he did on the scene where Dawson spills out her guts. The plot clunks and grinds like the transmission in a 1981 Chevy Citation, lurching things forward before sputtering to a stop at the next big speech.

I don't think even geeks spend as much time worrying about Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and donkey sex as Smith does. Even with less time spent on them, though, geeks bore me. The dialog sounds, as does all Smith dialog does, like someone arguing with himself. The characters all use the same language with the same pattern and rhythm. Obviously Smith just fucking cracks himself up.

Of course, the brutally tired shitck of Jason Mewes and Smith as Jay and Silent Bob must come be included, because, well, Smith's universe is so miniscual and finite that he thinks they must be. It's a good thing he didn't have pedophilia in the original Clerks, or he'd feel obligated to put it in here, too. Not that they have anything to do, or not that the audience is going to laugh when "Silent" Bob finally speak... again. Oooo, what a fucking treat! These characters alone are the most precise evidence that Smith is treading water in a kiddie pool.

Of course, someone will say I have no right to criticize Smith for being a regressive failure since I'm one too. Not true, actually. The fact that I am simply leaves me open to the same criticism,and I'll be the first to level it. Because I can smell shit, and Clerks 2 stinks. One Finger.

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Filthy's Reading
Graham Greene - Stamboul Train

Listening to
Smog - Knock Knock


Glengarry Glen Ross