“We’re not supposed to be here today.”
– Randall Graves, Clerks III
With one line, writer/actor/director Kevin Smith sent me into another fit of sobs. If anyone followed the production on his latest film, Clerks III (2022), there was already awareness that he was mining his 2018 experience with a “widow-maker” heart attack as he revisited the characters from which the entire View Askew Universe (View Askewniverse) is built upon. Because of this, as well as the publicly available synopsis, we knew that Smith’s approach meant he would threaten to take away Randall, using that as the catalyst to bring back fan favorites and original characters. What we didn’t realize (though some suspected (looking at you, Crystal Davidson)), is that Clerks III wouldn’t just be a walk down memory lane, but an opportunity for Smith to explore grief and loss in his own way. And that f**ker (respectfully) took us with him for the ride.
If you want to learn about Clerks III without spoiling the experience, head over to the initial spoiler-free theatrical release review. Moving forward, I will not hesitate to cockknock you with information you may not yet want to know.
Under the co-ownership of Dante Hicks (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall Graves (Jeff Anderson), the Quick Stop functions basically as it did in the 1990s: customers come in, customers leave, the guys take a break to play hockey on the roof, rinse and repeat. The main difference beyond Elias (Trevor Fehrman) working there is that the customers, like Dante and Randall, have aged with time. For Dante, this comes with an unexpected regret; for Randall, a heart attack mid-rant at Elias. He survives and decides he’ll finally make something of his passion for movies by shooting one himself and commandeers Dante to serve as producer and actor. Not wanting to diminish his friend’s energy after what’s he’s just endured, Dante goes along until he can’t any further, leading to argument to end all arguments.
My favorite things about art is the way it makes someone feel something. Could be rage, terror, power, anxiousness, guilt, annoyance, or value. Films like BELLE (2021) inspired within me a realization of an aspect of trauma I’d never confronted. Uncut Gems (2019) set me on edge for the duration. Vincent Price’s vocal delivery of his lines in the Thriller (1982) music video mixed with the reveal at the end always sent a chill down my spine and I still, to this day, struggle to listen to it. Meanwhile, songs like Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” and Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand” instill a sense of self-empowerment and wistfulness respectively. With Smith’s Clerks III, his story inspired feelings of great joy, as when old friends gather together to catch up, perhaps to address or correct misgivings, but also incredible pain as Smith asks the audience to say goodbye more than once. The end comes for us all and, while Randall is the reason Dante gets really anything done, losing him wouldn’t hit as hard as losing Dante. In fact, Smith’s decision to kill Dante doesn’t seem like cruelty when one considers the character and his arc. The prior two films featured Dante in a state of regress, never taking action, just complaining about what he wishes he had, until Dante made a choice: to be with Rosario Dawson’s Becky (pregnant with their baby) and to reopen the Quick Stop with Randall. But life isn’t a movie and theirs didn’t end with the credits. Rather, Dante kept living and, prior to III, Becky and their daughter are killed by a drunk driver. It’s an incredibly cruelty that would reek of fridging, except their deaths aren’t a catalyst for Dante, it’s part of his perpetual misery. In a beautifully shot scene that switches between Randall’s black-and-white recreation of his memories (a.k.a. Clerks) and Dante’s colorized blustering (a striking and clear way to denote how one is stuck in the past, the other in the present), we get to hear just how broken Dante is and that Randall never noticed. It’s here that the hammer falls and we prepare ourselves to say goodbye. But this is the right ending for Dante because, as shown through his dream conversations with Becky, his happily ever after died with her and their child. Dante lived for his friends, but his life has been over for some time. With his passing, Dante finally gets the paradise, the freedom he’s longed for. Now it’s up to Randall to grow up and manage things without the safety net Dante always provided.
Continuing the discussion of art and its impact on its audience, I did not see the death coming. I expected Randall’s incident and knew of his survival (it’s the plot of the film), but not once in the entirety of the film did I think (even with Amy Sedaris’s harbinger Doctor Ladenheim) this is where the story was going. So when it did, there was little more than shock running through my system. It reminded me of the fear I have of losing my wife unexpectedly. Now, sure, I’m Jewish and there’s a certain amount of living up to the stereotypes that’s a personal responsibility (I kid, I kid), but since the sudden passing of my mother-in-law in 2015, I possess a creeping fear of it happening to her. I become covered in horror at what it’ll mean for our sons and for me. It’s a loss that would positively shake me in a way from which I might not recover. So when Randall tells the funeral crowd, “we’re not even supposed to be here today,” the floodgates opened and I wept. I wept in a way that made things feel real. Had I seen the film in a theater, I likely would’ve had company as the loss of Dante is so deftly handled that long-time fans becomes shattered at the notion that Dante will not be back. Luckily, I watched it at home and was able to seek out a hug from Crystal when the credits ended.
With all of that out of the way, let’s turn our attention the home release itself. It comes in the usual physical and digital formats, with 4K UHD seemingly limited to a special edition steelbook from Best Buy. A digital code is offered with the 4K and Blu-ray options, but the marketing materials suggest a code does not come with the standard DVD. If you are a Smith fan (or merely a fan of this film), I recommend going with one of the higher-definition physical versions in order to get the most out of your home viewing experience. The digital and physical editions do include a feature-length audio commentary from Smith, O’Halloran, Anderson, Fehrman, and actor Austin Zajur (Blockchain Coltrane), as well as nearly 30 minutes of deleted/extended scenes and the theatrical trailer. However, if you want the real goodies (like the 96-minute Clerks III documentary or the 75-minute “We’re Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today” documentary), you need to have either the Blu-ray or 4K edition. If you’re someone who has watched virtually all of Smith’s films or seen him in person, you won’t be shocked at the level of detail the loquacious filmmaker offers in this celebration of storytelling. In fact, before you even get to the loading screen on the Blu-ray, Smith greets you with a warm and characteristic long-winded welcome explaining that it’s because people paid to see Reboot (2019) that Lionsgate wanted to work with him again and he offers a glimpse of what’s to come. Personally, I’m not a fan of gatekeeping bonus materials of a release from one format to another (making something either platform or format exclusive), but, if Smith is correct, and the best way to get more movies is to buy the physical edition, I suspect that won’t be a big ask of his decades-long fans. Considering he namedrops Dogma (1999), a film not available on Blu-ray, digital, or streaming, one is willing to forgive what seems like shilling and understand the weight of buying the physical product when offered. Chances are, if you’re any kind of Smith fan, you were already planning to pick up the home release, so no convincing is necessary.
Smith’s stories are often crass and juvenile, but they are not without their charms, and his later films are packed with introspection. Maybe it’s because his new stories are matching his own aged maturity and my own not far behind, but Clerks III feels like a joyous and terrifying look at what happens when we cling too tightly to what we don’t have and fail to embrace what we do. Given my own fear, I’m able to recognize that life is a work in progress, something that fan-favorites Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) have mastered by simply being present, and something which Randall’s arc requires him to face directly. Life doesn’t end with the major success or the incredible failure. It continues on. Or, in the spirit of New Jersey band My Chemical Romance, it carries on. And so should we, no matter the battles we face.
Clerks III Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Kevin Smith, Actors Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman and Austin Zajur
- The Clerks III Documentary (Blu-ray & 4K Exclusive) (1:36:13)
- We’re Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today: 3 Decades of Clerks Documentary (Blu-ray & 4K Exclusive) (1:15:16)
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes (29:30)
- Theatrical Trailer
Available on digital October 14th, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD December 6th, 2022.
For more information, head to the official Clerks III website.