2.5/10 When “Clerks III” was announced to be more of a Fathom Events type of extremely limited release as opposed to the wide theatrical release of “Clerks II”, I was initially confused. “Clerks II” made solid money given its small $5 million budget so why not give this follow up and concluding chapter of the trilogy the same wide release? Now that I have seen this disappointing movie limp across the finish line to end the trilogy on a low note, I can see why Lionsgate wasn’t confident in releasing this on a larger scale. While the original “Clerks” from 1994 was based off of writer/director Kevin Smith’s real life experiences and was successfully able to turn two clerks talking into a funny, interesting film, “Clerks II” raised the bar. Released 12 years later, the 2006 follow up had a much bigger budget as Smith had already established himself as a talented comedic film maker. The sequel was even funnier and expanded the cast in a natural and fun way with terrific performances from Rosario Dawson as Becky Scott and Trevor Fehrman as Elias Grover. Back before easily offended leftists started disallowing certain “offensive” words to be used, “Clerks II” had some hilariously offensive moments that were done for comedic purposes so they still are hilarious to this day, even if half of the blue check marks on Twitter would be greatly triggered by some of the language. Now with an even larger 16 year gap between films, the world has greatly changed from when “Clerks II” came out…for the worse. Now with the hate speech police out in full force looking to get offended by something every day, comedies have been completely neutered and this is a prime example. Despite a few laughs, this is the least funny “Clerks” movie and one of Smith’s worst comedies. When Smith referenced “Star Wars” and/or “The Lord of the Rings” in the previous two films, the references worked because those are so engrained into pop culture and they always will be. Similarly, you can make a “The Wizard of Oz” reference and people will understand it, despite that film being over 80 years old. Unfortunately, the jokes in this debacle reference AOC and NFTs, which already feel dated and will age horribly as people quickly push those useless things from their memories in the coming years. Besides the humor failing, the movie is extremely meta and since neither of the first two films were, it feels totally out of place and more like a rehash/retread of old ideas as we see the original “Clerks” film getting remade. The many jokes referencing filming a porno feel recycled from “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”. After Smith suffered a heart attack, he used writing this movie to cope with an event that almost took his life. While his (pun intended) heart may have been in the right place, the over serious and meta nature just doesn’t fit in with the previous two movies at all. Smith should have made this a completely non-“Clerks” related movie and it would have made much more sense. While the first two films of course had some serious moments and infighting between characters between all of the laughter, the comedy still took priority. Here, the opposite is true as the comedy takes a backseat to the melodrama and it feels out of place. The complete downer of an ending doesn’t help matters either. Even the one scene that forces all of the cameos into one place goes on for too long and isn’t as funny as it should be, especially considering the big names involved. Quentin Tarantino has publicly stated that he only wishes to direct ten feature length films because directors’ quality tends to get worse with age and really old men tend to go out with a whimper. They become sentimental and over serious so he wishes to go out while on top on a high note. The “limp dick” old man film making is exactly what this movie feels like and the type of movie Tarantino would rather kill himself over than release. Smith joins once great comedy directors like Judd Apatow, Adam McKay and Trey Parker/Matt Stone who used to put out strong content and have just become parodies of themselves at this point while simultaneously losing their harder edges that made them famous in the first place. The only positives I can say about this movie are that the pacing sails by relatively quickly, the cameos (while not funny) are fun to watch, the soundtrack is fantastic and at least the ending subverts your expectations. It is too bad that the laughter is minimal as the comedy is replaced by ill placed meta commentary about Smith himself, which comes off as rather pretentious and self absorbed at times. The first two movies were relatable to anyone who ever worked in a convenience store, gas station, Blockbuster, etc. This movie feels like it only appeals to Smith himself, making us wish, like Tarantino desires, he would have quit while he was ahead.

#CircleClerks / #JerseyHurl / #QuickStopMakingMovies / #JayAndSilentBobStrikeOut / #NotDeathProof / #NotForTheFaintOfHearts

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