After 12 years, several guest appearances, and a short-lived (but excellent) animated series, the “Clerks” have returned.  And luckily, the
results are decidedly good, especially considering director/creator/writer/producer Kevin Smith’s last few projects.

As we rejoin Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) we find that their lives have changed, but not necessarily for the better.  
After the beloved Quick Stop burns down, they find employment at the fast food chain, Mooby’s.

“Clerks II” is a far different film than the original, even if it does share the same common themes.  Other than being in color, it is a more
conventional movie in terms of pacing and screenplay.  Gone is the guerrilla filmmaking of “Clerks.”

However, this is certainly not a bad thing.  It would have been easy to write Dante and Randal and their antics in the Quick Stop again, but
Smith goes for deeper characterization instead.  Fear not, though, he certainly hasn’t lost his great comic touch.

Unfortunately the all-out wacky comedy sequences and the more serious character scenes don’t necessarily mesh well, especially early in
the film.  They do work on their own, but I can’t help feeling like Smith was trying to have his cake and eat it too.  The film has trouble
deciding whether it is serious or not.

There is one scene late in the film (in a jail cell), however, where he hits the absolute perfect balance of comedy and drama.  The cast really
shows how much they have improved over the original here.  Smith does a fantastic job evolving these characters and fleshing out what
they really want out of life.

The new cast members are also excellent.  Rosario Dawson, Trevor Fehrman, and Jennifer Schwalbach fit in perfectly aside the old hands
and each add a lot to the movie.

But most people are going to see “Clerks II” for the comedy, and this film is damn funny.  There are some genuinely hilarious scenes that I
won’t even spoil by mentioning, but let’s just say it doesn’t disappoint with the laughs.

There are a few sequences (the random dance scene) and a couple jokes (donkey) that go on for longer than they needed to, but I really
think this is the best “Clerks” fans could have hoped for.  It is exceptionally funny, fittingly offensive, and a surprisingly satisfying and even
heartfelt ending (?) to the story of Dante and Randal.

* * * 1/2
(out of four)
CLERKS II
Written and Directed by: Kevin Smith

Starring: Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes,
Kevin Smith, Rosario Dawson

Cinematography by: David Klein

Music by: James L. Venable

Released: July 21, 2006; 97 Minutes