Release Date(s)2022 (December 6, 2022)
Studio(s)View Askew Productions (Lionsgate)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: A-
Despite Kevin Smith toying with the idea of attempting to make sequels to some of his other films, his first film, Clerks, seems to be the only one (as of this writing) ever capable of achieving that goal. The characters of Dante and Randal—two foul-mouthed, wisecracking convenience store cashiers with a penchant for the occasionally melodramatic—always seemed to be Kevin’s alter egos anyway. As each film in the Viewaskewniverse has been released, it’s clear that he’s channeling where he’s at in his life through his characters. Clerks was a one-to-one reflection of his life working at Quick Stop Groceries, putting forth the idea that he could do bigger and better things. Clerks II was about reaching middle age and not entirely finding your place in the world, but staying true to yourself and your friends. Post-heart attack, Clerks III is about the need to say what’s not been said while there’s still time to say it. As such, the Clerks saga, if you will, offers Kevin Smith's version of verisimilitude, echoing his life and career in a way that few filmmakers, independent or otherwise, have been given the opportunity to portray in their work over an extended period of time.
In Clerks III, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) continue their daily existence as the owners and operators of Quick Stop, with Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) running a marijuana dispensary next door in the now defunct video store. Also on staff are Elias (Trevor Fehrman) and Blockchain (Austin Zajur), the latter Elias’ silent cohort. After a nearly fatal heart attack, Randal is propelled to make a movie about his life working at Quick Stop and Mooby’s, inviting everyone to participate, including Dante who serves as both producer and actor. Dante is meanwhile dealing with the death of his love Becky (Rosario Dawson) and their unborn child, both of whom were killed in a drunk driving accident years before. As filming commences and more and more pressure is put on Dante, his friendship with Randal is put to the ultimate test.
From the outside looking in, naysayers might consider a third bite at the Clerks apple to be unnecessary. But Dante and Randal had made an appearance in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the short film The Flying Car, and even had their own short-lived animated TV series before any of the sequels came into being. Clerks II turned out to be surprisingly more entertaining and heartfelt than most were expecting, though it continued Smith’s tradition of outrageous shock comedy and dialogue-driven situations. The comedy in these films is objectively hit or miss for many, but at their center is a beating heart, one that comes under serious threat both physically and metaphorically in Clerks III.
Like its predecessor, Clerks III requires you to have a working knowledge of the previous films in order to fully understand the characters and dynamics at play. That’s certainly not unreasonable, and most folks walking in will have that knowledge already. But this time around, we’re dealing with the heaviest material that these characters have ever been put through. Without going into major spoilers, the surprisingly hard-hitting third act is emotionally devastating in a way that Kevin Smith’s films have rarely been (the closest of which would be Chasing Amy). Whether it works tonally is another matter, but it’s so well done and so effective with astonishingly strong performances and visuals that it makes up for any of the film’s shortcomings.
In truth, it’s difficult to discuss Clerks III without getting into spoiler territory. It may seem like more of the same at the outset, but those who stick with it will find a much more rewarding experience than they might have expected. It may not fully earn its sentiment, but if you’re familiar with the other films in the Viewaskewniverse, you’re definitely going to appreciate it nonetheless.
Clerks III was captured by cinematographer Learan Kahanov digitally using Red 8K Digital Cinema cameras and finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It comes to Blu-ray for the first time with a pleasant presentation that features a healthy bitrate and a strong encode, even if the visuals aren’t always that impressive. I should preface this by stating my opinion that Clerks II is the best-looking film in the series, with a slightly desaturated but highly organic look that the other two films just don’t have, which is how I measure the presentation of Clerks III. It’s a well-framed film with a nice range of hues, but it tends to appear flat with variable flesh tones and merely decent black levels. It’s not a poor presentation by any means, and the black and white portions are actually refreshing with better visual textures to work with. A 4K Ultra HD presentation (a Best Buy exclusive, as of this writing) with High Dynamic Range could certainly buffer out some of the color and shadow detail issues, but as is, it’s still a technically proficient presentation.
Audio is included in English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible). It’s not a mind-blowing surround experience by any means and doesn’t do much for the overhead speakers, but the majority of the Atmos track offers consistently pleasing dialogue exchanges and excellent low end support for music and score. Occasional ambient and panning moments are peppered throughout as well. The only other audio option is a French 5.1 Dolby Digital track, with subtitle options in English SDH, Spanish, and French.
The following extras are included, all in HD:
- Audio Commentary with Kevin Smith, Jeff Anderson, Austin Zajur, Brian O’Halloran, and Trevor Fehrman
- The Clerks 3 Documentary (96:12)
- We’re Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today... 3 Decades of Clerks (75:15)
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes (37 in all – 29:30)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:56)
It should be noted that the audio commentary has been programmed as its own separate version, meaning that none of the other audio or subtitle options are available while listening to it. It’s a frequently entertaining commentary with Smith primarily in the driver’s seat, with O’Halloran and Fehrman piped in via Skype/Zoom. There’s never a dry moment as the five men discuss the film with plenty of good humor. The Clerks 3 Documentary is a mix of fly-on-the-wall behind-the-scenes material, interviews, and introductions to each filming location by Smith. It’s quite good as it takes us from each moment to the next exuberantly, rarely coming up for air. We’re Not Even Supposed to Be Here Today is a great companion to the documentaries made about the previous films (Snowball Effect: The Story of Clerks and Back to the Well: Clerks II), offering new information about the making and release of each of them along the way. Produced by friend of The Bits, Blu-ray and DVD producer Cliff Stephenson, it also discusses the influence of the original film on the independent film movement, the ownership of the characters of Jay and Silent Bob, and the animated series, among other topics. Next are a series of deleted and alternate scenes, none of which are really missed in the final cut. There’s also an extended set of outtakes at the end featuring Michelle Buteau’s character, who is absolutely hilarious and frequently causes the other actors to blow their takes.
Though the Best Buy 4K Ultra HD exclusive probably should have been released a little wider as it’s a tougher option to track down, the Blu-ray release of Clerks III is certainly no slouch and will satisfy most fans of the film and the series. For them, and for me personally, occasionally checking in with Dante and Randal has always been an enjoyable experience.
- Tim Salmons