Almost thirty years after he first worked there and fifteen years since he bought a part share in it after a brief spell at Mooby’s, Dante Hicks still shows up for the early shift at the Quick Stop every morning, his duty and his calling; with Becky gone, what else is there other than another day with Randal Graves and rooftop hockey while Jay and Silent Bob ply their trade next door in the site of the former video store.
Another typical day in Leonardo takes a turn when Randal collapses; rushed to hospital and treated for a major heart attack he begins to question his purpose in life and what he has achieved, deciding that he can find meaning in creating a film based on his encounters with the eccentric customers of the Quick Stop, writing and directing while Dante produces and secures finance and Silent Bob serves as director of photography.
His career having launched in 1994 with the ultra-low budget slacker comedy Clerks, director Kevin Smith returns to the scene of the crime with Clerks III, lowbrow art imitating life as he revisits and recreates scenes from that film and references other works in the wider View Askewniverse though the obvious prompt is Smith’s experiences following a major heart attack in 2018 which required him to radically change his own lifestyle.
Smith appearing as a newly slimline Silent Bob, all the key players of the previous films return alongside Jason Mewes’ ubiquitous Jay: Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson as Dante and Randal, Trevor Fehrman as evangelical Elias, so in thrall to his perpetual tormentor that he is willing to sell his soul to Satan to bargain for Randal’s life, even Marilyn Ghigliotti and Jennifer Schwalbach as Dante’s long-suffering exes Veronica and Emma.
A comedy built upon tragedy, Clerks III is self-referential and self-reverential, perhaps too much; Smith having grown as a filmmaker and expanded his budgets radically since his early days of maxxed-out credit card funding, he consciously emulates the format of his debut with a shooting and editing style as stilted and clunky now as it was three decades ago, though as the film progresses it finds a more natural pace.
Predictably full of in-jokes from Happy Scrappy Hero Pup to the return of the Egg Man, Smith’s daughter Harley Quinn now replacing his mother as the Milk Lady, he pulls in friends to provide celebrity cameos as they audition for the work in progress known initially as Convenience Stories then later as Inconvenience, but while the characters are encouraged to move forward Clerks III dwells overly in the past, Smith hopefully recognising as he closes the shutters that it is (high) time to move on.
Clerks III is on general release now