In February of 2018, immediately after performing at a live event in Glendale, CA, Kevin Smith started to feel very unwell very quickly. It turns out he was suffering a massive heart attack, and was immediately shuttled to a hospital to clear a total blockage from one of his arteries. He tweeted about it as soon as he could from his hospital bed (of course), learning that his medical issue is referred to as “the widow-maker” in how severe it is, and how slim one’s chances of recovery are. Smith had performed one of a scheduled three shows that night, and if he had carried on with the other two as planned and not received medical attention, he almost certainly would have died. It’s certainly an incredibly sobering event to go through, one that Smith really took to heart (so to speak…), re-evaluating his entire life up to that point, and how he would carry on after being given a second chance. He had already written a potential script for a third Clerks, but he ended up scrapping it in favor of a version more reflective of what had just happened to him and his new outlook on life, on looking back and looking forward. For better or worse, Clerks III became one of his most personal films, where the line between Kevin Smith and the characters he’s writing is blurred the furthest its ever gotten.
The other major origin source for this film is “Clerks: Sell Out,” the unproduced Clerks: The Animated Series feature film, which would have featured Dante and Randal making a movie at the Quick Stop. I don’t know Smith ever started writing a script for it, but I can only imagine it would have contained a lot of the same behind-the-scenes jokes, cameos and callbacks that we also see in Clerks III, maybe in a more absurdist fashion, since it would’ve been based on the cartoon. If it had actually come out in the 2000s, a movie about the making of Clerks would have been kind of cute, almost like a companion piece to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, a double feature love letter by Kevin Smith to his original characters and the world he created over his first five films. But now in 2022, Smith has basically strip-mined every last bit of his filmography, his podcasts, even his own personal life to use as source material and joke fodder. Dante and Randal’s seemingly final outing becomes a celebration of Clerks, done by a filmmaker who literally has not stopped talking about Clerks since he made it almost thirty years ago. It’s a movie that feels both overbearingly somber and absolutely frivolous, trying so hard to be poignant and give its characters a final dramatic arc, but refuses to let them have any real growth since their entire existences are locked down to just the previous two movies. While Clerks II ended on a hopeful, though uncertain ambiguous note, Clerks III ends this epic trilogy with a blunt hammer swing to the face. Continue reading “ReView Askew: Clerks III (2022)”