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Kevin Smith
Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Lisa Spoonhauer, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Walter Flanagan, Scott Schiaffo
Writing Credits:
Kevin Smith

Just because they serve you doesn't mean they like you.

Chronicling a day in the life of Quick Stop clerk Dante Hicks, Clerks captures the hilarity of the humdrum even as it raises slackerdom to existential proportions. From behind his counter, Dante desperately tries to exert some power over the crazy customers, his own love life, and his incorrigible friend and fellow clerk Randal - the type who sees nothing wrong in closing the video shop he works in to go rent movies from a better store.

Box Office:
$27 thousand.
Domestic Gross
$3.151 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.85:1
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 92 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 6/29/1999

• Audio Commentary with Director/Writer/Actor Kevin Smith, Director of Photography David Klein, Producer/Editor/Soundman Scott Mosier, Clerks Historian/Assistant Cameraman/Grip Vincent Pereira, Journalist Malcolm Ingram, Mallrats Producer Jim Jacks, Gaffer/Lighting Assistant/Still Photographer Ed Hapstak, and Actors Brian O’Halloran, Jason Mewes, and Walt Flanagan
• Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending
• Trailer
• Music Video


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Clerks: Collector's Series (1994)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 16, 2004)

Okay, I admit it: sometimes I might ever so slightly display the teeniest tendency to be close-minded about some things. Case in point: when Kevin Smith burst on the scene with indie hit Clerks in 1994, he immediately became the darling of the hipster set. MTV even incorporated some of his characters for promos.

Obviously, compared to the hype of mega-movies like The Phantom Menace or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the buildup that surrounded Smith and his movie was almost negligible, but there was something about that "next big thing" attitude that turned me off and I never gave Clerks - or any of his subsequent films - a shot.

Until 1999, that is, when I decided to give the then-new DVD of Clerks a look. Long weekend, five-day rental, special edition - what the heck, let's give it a shot!

Clerks turned out to be a pretty funny and entertaining little movie. It's definitely not would you'd term an "epic;" all it purports to do is show a typical day in the life of some early-20s "slacker" types as they deal with the various issues that affect them - mainly women and crummy jobs. Actually, far too much happens during this workday for it to appear truly "typical" - our main character, Dante (Brian O'Halloran), more actively debates his romantic choices than would be usual - but most of the film's humor stems from the slightly warped portrayal of the strangeness that we encounter on such a frequent basis.

That's the area in which the film really shines. It doesn't attempt much of a plot - Dante's attempts to work on his love life make up the movie's most consistent theme - but it more than makes up for any story deficiencies through wittiness and incisive (though broad) characterizations. Clerks is definitely a film in which the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. Taken on their own, various aspects of the production are pretty weak. The acting largely smacks of community theater quality, the story basically doesn't exist, and it lacks any vague form of production values. The whole thing looks cobbled together in some guy's spare time - which, essentially, it was. The movie's about store clerks, for God's sake! What less interesting premise for a film could there be?

Still, the project possesses a strong spark that makes it compelling. Smith seems to have a good ear for dialogue; it isn't always incredibly witty or insightful, but it's real, and that's what makes it entertaining. It's the old "it's funny because it's true" deal; although the movie definitely presents its characters and scenarios in a broad manner, there's enough realism to make the picture compelling and interesting.

To be honest, I found it tough to write this review because it seemed so hard to pin down what it is about Clerks that makes it entertaining. It's not a world-beating movie, and you're probably not going to spend hours discussing its details with your friends, though you might quote its lines endlessly. The acting varies between flawed but entertaining (Jeff Anderson as Randal) and atrociously wooden (Marilyn Ghigliotti as Veronica, who always seems to struggle to remember her lines).

However, part of its appeal lies in the fact that it's something different and that it knows its strengths; Clerks never attempts to be more than a small, affectionate study of a certain kind of person at a certain point in their lives. It's not an all-time classic, but it's a great deal of fun and I'm sure it'll stand up to repeated viewings; this seems to be one of those movies that can offer different experiences at different times.

The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C-/ Bonus B-

Clerks appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Due to the exceedingly low-budget origins of Clerks, it became very tough to objectively grade the picture. It looked terrible, but that occurred largely due to the source material.

For the most part, sharpness appeared adequate. The original photography occasionally rendered things somewhat indistinct, but not to a terrible degree. The movie retained a fairly decent sense of definition. Occasional examples of jagged edges, shimmering and edge enhancement occurred; these caused some distractions but didn’t seem severe.

Unsurprisingly, source flaws were a substantial issue. Due to its 16mm origins, grain became very heavy, and I also noticed more than a few defects. I saw white flashes, specks, grit, streaks, marks and lines throughout the movie. Black levels looked pretty nice and deep, but contrast appeared erratic. The film usually looked either too bright or too dark.

As I previously alluded, I found it tough to objectively grade Clerks. The movie didn’t look good, but it didn’t feel right to give it a poor grade due to the source limitations. I went with a “C-“ to connote the problems but still not punish it too much.

I also thought the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Clerks was acceptable for a project of this one’s origins but no better than that. The mix essentially remained monaural except for the stereo music, which displayed decent delineation. Otherwise, the audio hewed closely to the center and didn’t spread out much. Some very minor ambience popped up at times, such as with wind on the top of the roof or the rumble in the car. I also noticed a little bleeding of the speech to the sides. As for the surrounds, they lightly reinforced the music, but otherwise they played virtually no role in the proceedings.

Audio quality was lackluster. Speech usually seemed decent, though the lines could come across as brittle and edgy at times. Some weak dubbing also marred the presentation. Effects played a minor role and seemed passable. They failed to present much range and came across as thin and puny much of the time. The music also lacked great dynamics, but the songs were clear and concise, with decent but unexceptional bass. I noticed some hiss and hum at times. As with the picture, objectively when compared to other flicks from 1994, Clerks offered a weak auditory experience, but due to its extremely low-budget origins, I felt I should give it a “C-” grade.

Adapted from an old laserdisc, Clerks comes with a mix of supplements. We start with an audio commentary from director/writer/actor Kevin Smith, director of photography David Klein, producer/editor/soundman Scott Mosier, Clerks historian/assistant cameraman/grip Vincent Pereira, journalist Malcolm Ingram, Mallrats producer Jim Jacks, gaffer/lighting assistant/still photographer Ed Hapstak and actors Brian O’Halloran, Jason Mewes, and Walt Flanagan. (Klein, Hapstack and Jacks show up late and don’t participate for the whole track; Jack appears around 36:15, Hapstak at 43:00, and Klein at 1:10:50.)

Smith dominates the commentary as he mostly either points out who certain cast members are and mentions flaws in the film. He also tosses in various production notes such as casting and props. The other participants mainly answer his questions, and we also get some story notes and indications of cuts made for the final product. A poorly-recorded affair, it can be tough to hear some of the folks, which makes it a difficult listen at times. The track also often meanders and rambles, so it can seem tedious; it’s one of the most low-key group tracks I’ve heard. Commentaries for other Smith films are excellent, so this one remains an only sporadically worthwhile disappointment. It does reveal, however, that Jason Mewes may not have had to do much actual acting in his role as dopey druggie Jay.

In addition, we get a seven deleted scenes that last a total of 18 minutes and 52 seconds. (That includes the “alternate ending”, which is presented separate from the other clips.) Most provocative of these is that alternate ending. As is the case with all of the removed bits, the unused ending is simply a longer version of the one actually featured; the concluding scene goes on for another couple minutes past the released ending of the film. I won't reveal what the extra footage shows, but I will say that boy was it a good idea to drop it! It's interesting and powerful, but it completely changes the tone of the movie; it seems like an extremely arbitrary way to end the film. That may well have been the point, but it simply doesn't work; the movie functions much better with its released conclusion.

The other deleted scenes included here are much less controversial. Like I mentioned, they essentially just extend included segments. They're interesting to watch but they add nothing to the picture; it's usually fairly easy to see why the scenes were whittled down to their released form. By the way, all of these segments and the alternate ending feature spoken introductions from Smith.

Finally, the Clerks DVD includes the theatrical trailer and a Soul Asylum music video directed by Smith. Both of these features also offer spoken introductions from Smith. The trailer isn't as good as Smith seems to believe, but it's still effective. The video is kind of fun - it includes the actors and characters from Clerks as well as the band - but it's nothing remarkable. Still, it's more creative and entertaining than the average music video.

Kevin Smith’s first film doesn’t remain his best, but it offers a frequently creative and clever piece of work. It sets up his style well and despite many flaws, it presents enough strong moments to still work well. The DVD gives us unattractive visuals and bland audio, both of which are adequate representations of the original material, though. The DVD includes some decent extras. While not much of a DVD, Clerks is a good enough movie to merit my recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.8888 Stars Number of Votes: 9
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