Clerks. (1994)


Miramax Films - View Askew Productions, 1994Runtime: 92 minutesRated R
Starring Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith
Written and Directed by Kevin Smith

Before seeing Kevin Smith's first film, "Clerks." (1994), I read in another review that it originally received an NC-17 rating based solely on its language. I found this hard to believe. Then I saw the film. I won't say that I was surprised that it didn't receive the NC-17 rating, but I will say that I understood why it originally got one. "Clerks." is one of the most foul-mouthed films ever made. There is even a scene in which a woman with a toddler is standing in front of the counter at a video store while the clerk is ordering a series of pornographic films with varying filthy titles.

That isn't to say that "Clerks." is tasteless instead of funny. Quite the opposite. "Clerks." is a very funny movie. It tells the story of an adventurous day in the lives of a couple of (duh) clerks in New Jersey. One clerk is Dante (Brian O'Halloran), a food shop clerk who continuously complains that he's "not even supposed to be here today!" He gets called in by the boss on a day when he's supposed to be off because he has to play hockey in the afternoon. The boss promises Dante that he'll be there to take over at 12:00, but decides to go elsewhere and leave the store for Dante to take care of for the rest of the day. Dante is so angry at the boss for not showing up that he decides to have the game on the roof of the store. This is just one of the many unusual situations that Dante gets into during the course of the day.

The other clerk is Randal (Jeff Anderson), who works at a video store next door to where Dante works. Randal is not exactly a model employee. He comes in late and constantly locks up the video store to make visits to Dante. Randal hates all his customers and consistently insults them. While talking to Dante, he elaborates on his theories about the ending of "Return of the Jedi" and gives him worthless advice on his life and relationships.

A number of unusual things happen during the course of the day that Dante shouldn't even be there: a customer comes in determined to find the perfect carton of eggs; Dante finds out his ex-girlfriend (Lisa Spoonauer) is marrying an Asian design major and finds out some disturbing information (as he thinks of it) about his present girlfriend's (Marilyn Ghigliotti) sexual history; their rooftop hockey game is interrupted by someone who thinks he's a better player than Dante; and Dante and Randal lock up the store again to go to the wake of a girl they went to high school with, where Randal humiliates the both of them by doing something very stupid.

"Clerks." was also the film that introduced Smith's signature characters, Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith himself). Smith's "hetero life partners" have some funny dialogue in "Clerks," but Smith doesn't do much with them here. They're still funny and Smith does a good job of introducing his characters, but there isn't much focus put on them. However, this turns out not to be so much of a bad thing, considering that there was much more focus put on them in Smith's following film, "Mallrats," which incidentally was not nearly as funny as "Clerks."

"Clerks." made Kevin Smith into a cult hero (especially in New Jersey), and for good reason. His first film, along with all of his following efforts, is beautifully irreverent and extremely funny. For anyone who has never seen one of Smith's films, this would certainly be the one to start with. Smith leaves a brilliant first impression and prepares us for the attitude of his follow-up work. The bottom line is that "Clerks." is a top-notch comedy with laughs from beginning to end.

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