Cheap, touching, and downright nasty, Kevin Smith’s first feature still remains the ultimate cinematic tribute to slackers (all apologies to Linklater, though it should probably be said that he was trying to sum up a cultural non-movement as opposed to chronicling the mores of these post-high school wasters, who exist outside of time). When it was first released in 1994, Clerks was one of those epochal fringe movies that comes along one or two times a decade and just hits a nerve. Ten years later, it’s aged surprisingly well (though still not quite as funny as some would have it) and is actually much more palatable, given how it fits into Smith’s whole elaborate alternate Jerseyverse. The story is thin, basically a contrivance that allowed Smith to shoot something in the place he was working at the time. Dante (Brian O’Halloran) gets called in at the crack of dawn on his day off to man the register at a crappy little convenience store and repeats to everybody who will listen, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” As the day progresses, Dante deals with psychotic customers, a jealous current girlfriend, an alluring ex-girlfriend, cigarette-buying kids, Jay and Silent Bob, a stiff in the bathroom, and a running argument with his buddy Randall (Jeff Anderson), who works in the even-crappier video store next door. Although these aren’t guys anybody would really want to emulate—Dante being essentially a self-martyring whiner and Randal an antagonistic boob—Smith makes them into a fairly entertaining duo and easy enough company for an hour and a half. Even though a lot gets packed into this one day, you still get the feeling that nothing is really going to change with these guys. Although Dante and Randal seem to think they’re just killing time until something better comes along, the knowledge that this bottom-rung wage-slave life is eventually going to swallow them whole lurks behind all the potty humor, Star Wars references, and unintentional necrophilia.
There's only so much you can do. The film has a new HiDef transfer from 16mm IP with a 5.1 Skywalker Sound remix, but this is still a grainy-looking, muddy-sounding film that was shot on the cheap.and it shows. That said, it sounds and looks a hell of a lot better than that crappy VHS copy you taped off the Sundance Channel.
Everything but a drop of Kevin Smith's blood-though that too may be hidden inside one of the Easter eggs somewhere on these three discs. First, there's two cuts of the film, the standard 93-minute theatrical release, and the original 103-minute IFFM First Cut (notable mostly for including the wisely-excised ending where Dante is ignominiously gunned down by a stickup man). Two documentaries, an exhaustive 95-minute making-of called The Snowball Effect, and a 10th anniversary public Q&A session with the stars and filmmakers in which you get some good dirt on the post-Clerks fallout between Smith and Anderson. A scene that was cut for logistical reasons from the original screenplay (where we get to see what happened with Dante and Randall inside that funeral home) is included here, only animated in the style of the short-lived Clerks TV series. The commentary tracks-including a new audio/video one for the longer cut-are interesting but mostly beside the point, you can get more background info from the treasure trove of other material here, like Smith's journals, the original script, articles and reviews, the stars' original audition tapes, and so on. More notable among the many other extras are Mosier and Smith's film school short, Mae Day, a clumsy but still-funny mockumentary, and (finally!) a collection of the Jay and Silent Bob commercials they did for MTV all those years ago. There's also a trailer, music video, and heaven knows what else.
If you want anything more out of a DVD, then there's just no pleasing you.