Brian O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson
Concept, Level A: It’s a low-budget, black-and-white comedy about a twentysomething who works in a New Jersey convenience store. Concept, Level B: It was written and directed by a 23-year-old who actually worked at a convenience store. Concept, Level C: It was filmed, in fact, in the very same store where he was employed….
Hmmmmmm. If you’ve had your fill of slump-shouldered, Generation Xer ennui, the idea of Clerks probably has all the appeal of an insufficiently microwaved burrito. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of 1991’s bumblingly sweet Slacker, about a bunch of aimless kids in Austin, Texas, this sounds like manna.
Clerks turns out to be something in between. A burrito with flavor nuggets? A Slurpee with a hint of nectar? Writer-director Kevin Smith has a knack for unexpected, mildly grotesque jokes, and the movie’s extraordinarily explicit dialogue is often funny and authentic-sounding. Just as often, though, the banter between O’Halloran and Anderson has the annoyingly snug rhythm of sitcom writing. The acting, no surprise, is amateurish—although Jason Mewes, as a drug dealer who looks like a Red Hot Chili Pepper manqué, is so borderline barbaric, he’s in another category altogether. You want to find the rock he crawled out from under to see what else lurks underneath. (R)