Coming to terms with one’s own mortality and life’s legacy is at the heart of “Clerks III,” a film that is the product of a kinder, gentler Kevin Smith. This is a project that comes from a filmmaker and writer who is older and wiser, one who is unafraid to share the deeply personal aspects of his soul. It’s the kind of movie that’s meaningful and touching. It’s the kind of movie that will make a grown man cry.
Drawing on inspiration from his real-life brush with death in early 2018, Smith incorporates his own heart attack into the storyline. Here he writes what he knows, and the result is effective. From his days growing up in New Jersey and working at a convenience store and video shop, Smith brings in a hefty dose of authentic nostalgia to this sequel, which tells the semi-autobiographical story of his writing and directing his 1994 breakthrough movie, “Clerks.”
After suffering a massive heart attack, convenience store clerk (and now co-owner) Randal (Jeff Anderson) enlists his longtime co-worker Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and misfit friends Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) to help him make a movie about their lives at the Quick Stop after getting inspiration from his mid-life health crisis. Using real-life customers and other situations they’ve personally witnessed over the last few decades, the gang get a camera and start recording. Along the way, they reminisce about the past, worry about the future, and learn to accept their choices and regrets in life.
Friendship and love forms the essence of the film, which is at its best when it revels in feel-good nostalgia that fans will particularly enjoy. Ghosts of the past are confronted with a heartfelt sincerity and some really insightful writing here, which may surprise Smith’s harshest critics. Of course, there are a handful of the usual juvenile poop and weed jokes, but this is a film that Smith can and should be proud of.
There’s something different and special about this sentimental, emotional movie that explores making the most of the time you have left. It’s a funny and poignant portrait of a decades-old friendship that’s grown as audiences watched, and it especially packs a punch when we all realize not only how much Randal and Dante needed each other, but how much we did, too.
As a writer and filmmaker, it’s about damn time that Kevin Smith reached the top of his game. With “Clerks III,” I assure you, he has.