Or maybe he did. After all, Smith slyly quips “Jay and Silent Bob will return in ‘Dogma’” during the end credits of Clerks, almost as a freeze-framed “we did it” high five to his future self, who would bring Dogma to screens in 1999, after two more films featuring the characters. Kevin Smith has aptly named the universe in which the series (composed of six feature length films, a short lived cartoon series, multiple comic book series, one groovy cartoon movie, and countless cameos and tie-ins) exists the View Askewniverse, based off of the title of his original production company, View Askew Productions. In the time it takes you to finish this article, we will examine the sheer dopeness of each of the universe’s film entries. Let’s begin.
It was a risky bet for a film school dropout who was filming in the convenience store in which he worked with a group of friends and no real prior experience, but it more than payed off. Smith’s mouthy, filthy, slacker story found a home at Miramax, the big-breasted mama bear of indie films in the 90’s, also bringing us such classics as Pulp Fiction, Swingers, The Crying Game, and Good Will Hunting. Clerks practically reinvented comedy, paving the way for a new generation of funny movies that focus on shlubby guys who talk a lot. Kiss the ring, Judd Apatow.
This film introduced us to Lee, who would become an Askew regular with the ranks of Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Ethan Suplee, and George Carlin. Lee’s character Brodie steals the film with monologues that only a mind like Smith could think up, painting pictures of an airplane full of citizens masturbating during turbulence, and teasing us with the ferocity he would bring to Smith’s next feature. I proudly refer to this as Smith’s most underrated flick, with sophomoric humor that sounds like it was written by a senior and a great cast of characters that make you wish your life was a little more like a movie. Oh, and don’t forget: the cookie stand isn’t part of the food court.
Their rocky relationship, sexual and not, is plagued by Alyssa’s experienced past, Holden’s own insecurities, and Banky, Holden’s homophobic best friend and inker (not tracer!), played by Lee in the role that inspired me to buy a Dickies jacket. The movie is a beautiful, modern portrayal of love and the hardships of making it work. Add in just enough Star Wars references, a few stories about oral sex gone wrong, and a bittersweet ending that still cuts deep and you’ve got yourself not only one of Smith’s best works, but one of the best love stories of our time. Quentin Tarantino loved it. You will, too.
It was critically panned, but it ultimately wasn’t a film for the critics. It was a film for the fans who loved to see the characters in action, and for them, it was more than enough. You don’t have to think, you can just laugh. With absolutely too many cameos to name, the film is a hilarious good time with your favorite stoner duo. If you can’t appreciate it for what it is, you are the one who is the ball-licker.
The secret to Smith’s success was his renovation. Rather than clinging to the past and attempting to simply copy the film he made over ten years prior, Smith breathes a new life into his work and revitalizes Dante and Randal, who are now working in a burger joint after a fire engulfs their precious convenience store. They are older, but not wiser, with a new set of conflicts and themes, matching the tone of where Smith was in his career. It’s a marvelous film that’s left open-ended for the third sequel that Smith has planned for years, and may be bringing to us soon.