Earlier than “Clerks III” begins feasting on itself like a Cheetos-craving stoner, the discursive punch of Kevin Smith’s return to the crassly philosophical neo-vaudeville of Fast Cease denizens Dante, Randal, Jay and Silent Bob remembers the sprightly ding of a comfort retailer doorbell asserting a well-recognized buyer.
After all, that sound may signify an exit. Existential fact weighs on Dante (Brian O’Halloran) after we study that his love Becky (Rosario Dawson) has died for the reason that occasions of “Clerks II.” (Dawson returns for a dream sequence.) However demise is a extra pressing concern for the nearing-50 Randal (Jeff Anderson) when he’s spurred to midlife reassessment after struggling a coronary heart assault. Author-director Smith famously survived one in 2018, and the prospect that this private element will chart new profanely amusing and emotional territory for these likable ranters feels promising.
Till, that’s, Randal’s energized function leads him to announce his aim of creating a film about his Fast Cease world, and we quickly understand Smith is about to meta-make “Clerks” once more. The View Askew trustworthy could lap up the re-creations, cameos, behind-the-scenes lore and legacy riffs, however this universe folding in on itself is hardly humorous or enlightening in regards to the artistic course of, only a self-referential guidelines. At one level, Smith as Silent Bob — however actually as Smith himself, disparaged director of artless motion pictures — speaks as much as attest he’s all the time understood aesthetics, a wink as bitterly defensive as Woody Allen’s “early funny ones” gag from “Stardust Memories.” (You’d suppose by now that Smith would make artlessness a badge of honor.)
When he swerves to place mortality entrance and middle once more on the finish, nevertheless, it’s a frank reminder that narrative adeptness and sentimentality aren’t robust fits, both. The emotion seize is comprehensible however dealt with like last-second seasoning. One wonders if 90 minutes of purely foul-mouthed, shaming exchanges on faith, crypto, Satanism, intercourse, growing old and popular culture franchises — what was hinted at early on — would have been simply as nostalgic, more true to type and probably extra entertaining than Smith’s half-baked bid to remind us of when his navel-gazing was indie gold.
“Clerks III” might not be the final go-round for these characters, nevertheless it in all probability must be if its lack of ability to make inventory-taking richly humorous or significant is any indication. Extra of a recognition reel for a fan conference than a film, it indicators a profession that’s traveled removed from its first evocation of a uncooked seriocomic intelligence about small-to-bursting lives. Now, it’s a closed loop just for die-hards.
Rated: R, for pervasive language, crude sexual materials and drug content material
Operating time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Taking part in: On the whole launch via Sept. 25 by way of Fathom Occasions