Innocent Bystander: Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever cried while masturbating.
Myself: Especially to the sight of a man blowing a donkey.
Innocent Bystander: What in tarnation is this [movie] about?
Myself: Being in your 30s.
Supplant a fast food dive for the Quick Stop and add 12 years. This is Clerks II, the post-mini mart, all you do is talk about ass-to-mouth era known as your 30s. Randal and Dante have taken control (or lost control, rather) of a Mooby’s fast food restaurant in their native New Jersey while a now sober Jay and still silent Bob sell weed they can’t smoke to local teenage potheads.
Newcomer Trevor Fehrman plays Elias, the sexually repressed church kid/French-fryer employee while Rosario Dawson enters the Clerks world as the very unrepressed Mooby’s store manager and Dante’s love interest, Becky. The sextet wander through one day in the life as they are all forced to reconcile with nasty demons named Marriage, Maturity, and Tucking.
“I’ve tucked before,” deadpans Jason Mews, who plays Jay. Fehrman corroborates Mews’s penchant for indecent exposure, explaining that within days of meeting Mews he had already “seen his testicles.” It’s when Mews later threatens a repeat performance that the journalists begin hunting for the hotel room’s minibar key. However, we manage to survive the interviews sans genitals or gin, for better or worse.
Meshing adult issues like marriage with searing, culture-driven humor is director Kevin Smith’s forte. With his Marlboro Ultra light teetering between his fingers, Smith reflects, “The underlying question the film asks is if you can still be a kind of lackadaisical, cynical, wise-ass in your 30s or if you have to in some way grow up.” Can you be a responsible, hegemonic example of American Life but also retain a characteristic sense of humor that most other suburbanites find grotesque?
For Smith, being a 30-something has manifested itself in a combination of the two: pay your bills while you graphically debate the intricacies of anal sex, for example. While Clerks laid the foundation, Clerks II picks up where the 20s end and the 30s begin. The sequel is very much a personal journey for Smith as he explores crossing the threshold into adulthood.
This threshold, however, tends to be nebulous and weird. At what point do you actually become branded an adult, if ever? Add toxic amounts of audience skepticism to an already inherently terrifying concept and suddenly Clerks II seems … superfluous.
“Clerks is a movie I wrote about what it’s like being in your 20s, and now I felt like I had something to say about being in your 30s … Clerks 2 checks back in with Dante and Randal 10 years down the road,” explains Smith. Whether 23 or 33, both characters are still as gloriously flawed with the same ruthless banter that audiences fell for in 1994.
Any trepidation the director had in starting a sequel vanished once he started writing dialogue. Smith’s cleverly crafted profanity and edge-pushing punch lines never pull back for the sake of propriety. In fact, Clerks II seems to suggest – or rather, brandish wildly without any reservations – that some senses of humor grow bolder as the speaker grows older.
Yet, even between images of sober Jay prancing around while squeezing his nipples and tangents about fictional vagina trolls, Smith somehow reclaims a once fleeting sense of identity induced by adulthood-crisis in these characters. Never has ass-to-mouth been more character building.
Innocent Bystander: Sexy material.
Myself: Good thing you plan on dying before 30.
Clerks II releases in theaters July 21.