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 no getting around it: Clerks looks like shit. And though I don't have a DVD copy of the film to compare, the upgrade to high-definition seems not to have done the film any favors. The "improvement" in clarity brightens the image some, but it also brings out the grain to such a degree that nearly every character movement is smeared and blurred behind the wall of noise. Clerks was never going to look good, but it maybe should have stayed in standard-def, where it could retain some ugly charm. Sound is probably about as good as it can get, though still not good enough to hide how terrible these actors are.
The appeal of Clerks has always been completely lost on me, but even I'm struck by this disc's lineup of extras, many of which have been carried over from the impressive 10th-anniversary DVD of the film. The disc includes two versions of the film (the theatrical cut and the even rougher-looking "first cut," which retains the eventually excised ending in which Dante is shot to death by a robber), each of which has its own audio commentary. There are a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes, as well as deleted scenes, outtakes, audition footage, Q&A's, and more. Features exclusive to the 15th Anniversary Edition include a new introduction to the film by Kevin Smith, and for some reason a making-of documentary for Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
The extras are sweet, but Clerks's low-budget ugliness is a questionable fit for Blu-ray.