Clerks III movie review & film summary (2022)

The George Lucas of his own View Askew Universe, Smith has created his own mini blockbusters that parallel the larger business. Here, he has the same idea as successful products like “Avengers: Endgame” or “Top Gun: Maverick.” But where those movies bring back familiar characters, beats, and moments for a story that could stand on its own, Smith’s approach is just to rely on every part of the making of “Clerks,” to punch it up with easter eggs, and actors that you’d only be amused to see if you remembered their two-minute bit in “Clerks.” There’s no larger plot though, and the big surprises only come from cameos (Amy Sedaris, Justin Long, and Ben Affleck are amusing in particular). 

The meta storytelling of “Clerks III” gets more and more flat when it’s about paying tribute to Smith’s own eureka moments and filmmaking back in the ’90s than what Randal as an individual character does. Sure, it’s cute that Randal’s crew has a mic on a hockey stick, as the boom mic used for “Clerks” really was, or that they repeat a nauseating car sequence where the camera, in the back seat, leaps from Randal and Dante with each line while talking about not going to film school. But there are so many scenes of “Clerks III” that are so beholden to the text of “Clerks,” with actors brought back to play the same role, recreating a shot. It’s here that the movie-within-the-movie is not about Randal, but just Smith rehashing it, championing his references for existing. There’s plenty of “I’m not even supposed to be here today” references, including a final one that feels like a sell-out because of the clunky and grave importance foisted upon it. 

At the very least, “Clerks III” gives us more time with Anderson’s Randal, and it’s warming to see him treated as more than just the devil on Dante’s shoulder, as he is in the previous movies. Anderson gets to shape something of an arc with this character while Dante remains stuck in tedious preoccupations with relationships that have never had their desired emotional impact. And when Smith eventually brings it back to the ultimate love story—between that of Dante and Randal—it feels more about going through the motions than a grand statement about friendship.


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