Clerks II appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 5:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie presented a consistently satisfying transfer.
Sharpness was good. I noticed no instances of softness to mar the flick, as it always seemed crisp and well-defined. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to appear, and I detected no signs of edge enhancement. Source flaws also stayed away, as the movie suffered from no specks, marks or other defects.
Colors were the only questionable part of the transfer, as they seemed rather pale and submerged under the movie’s overblown, high contrast look. However, this came across as a production choice, not as a problem with the presentation. Blacks were dark and firm, while shadows seemed clear and smooth. Overall, this was a satisfying picture.
Should you expect a slam-bang spectacular from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Clerks II? Nope, as it stayed with an extremely subdued soundfield. Speech dominated, as dialogue was easily the most important aspect of the mix. Music and environmental elements also appeared but didn’t play hugely significant roles. They broadened the package to a degree, however, and opened up matters in a natural and satisfying manner.
Audio quality was quite good. Speech seemed natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other issues connected to the lines. Effects were a minor concern but appeared accurate. Music worked well, as the tunes sounded lively and dynamic. All of the elements boasted solid bass response. Though the flick sounded good, the bland soundfield left this one as a “B-”.
The two-DVD set comes packed with extras. On Disc One, we find three separate running, screen-specific commentaries. For the first, we hear from director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier and director of photography Dave Klein. All three sit together for what they tout as a “technical commentary”. That means they discuss subjects such as sets and location, visual design, cinematography, and related issues.
That sounds like it could be dry, and indeed, this is a more low-key commentary than the others. However, it seems nearly impossible for Smith to be boring, and he interacts well with his long-time pals and collaborators. They delve into the technical issues well and make sure that we remain awake and interested along the way. Indeed, the piece moves surprisingly briskly and turns into an enjoyable and informative chat.
In the second commentary, we get Smith, Mosier and actors Jeff Anderson, Trevor Fehrman, Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran and Jennifer Schwalbach. All seven sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. They get into characters and performances, how the roles reflect the actors, other aspects of the participants’ careers, and scene specifics.
Much of the material remains anecdotal. We learn about romantic trysts on the set and get some impressions of a few conflicts. We also hear general reflections about the movie and the experiences. This all comes across as chatty and engaging, with plenty of good humor to keep us involved.
Finally, we locate the “Unused Podcast Commentary” with Smith, Mosier and Anderson. This was designed for fans to download and listen to as they watched Clerks II in the theaters. Cinema owners put the kibosh on that idea, so we get it here instead.
The track looks at Smith’s decision to revive the “series” and various connected issues. We hear about bringing everyone back on board and attached qualms along with story concepts and changes. Smith discusses writing the script and we also get notes about new cast members, performance issues, sets and locations, and scene specifics.
Of the three commentaries, the “podcast” probably proves the most satisfying. It covers the production’s nuts and bolts well and remains consistently engaging. All three succeed, but this one is the most interesting and stimulating. Inevitably it repeats some material from the first two, but it’s usually fresh and fun.
By the way, if you choose to listen to all three tracks, I’d recommend you do it in reverse order. Start with the “podcast” and then do the actors’ commentary before you finish with the technical discussion. I think that’s the most logical way to view the production.
If desired, you can watch the flick with an Introduction by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier. The four-minute and 38-second clip includes comments about what to expect from the set’s extras as well as some random remarks about Smith’s sex life and whatnot. It’s typically entertaining.
25 Deleted Scenes fill a total of 36 minutes, 31 seconds. If you add an optional intro from Smith and Mosier, we end up at 38:23. Although I like to offer the names of the added scenes, this set doesn’t label them very well, so that becomes impractical. The sheer volume also would make such an act tedious.
Most of the clips provide minor extensions to existing sequences. That means a lot of the 36:31 running time repeats material from the finished film. Despite those redundant elements, some good bits pop up here. “Sex Nuts and Retard Strong” is the most significant as it shows a car-based conversation in which Randal comes up with the possibility that Dante might accidentally impregnate his mother. We also get a long improv reel from Wanda Sykes and Earthquake. It’s a nice collection of clips.
A featurette entitled A Closer Look at Interspecies Erotica goes for eight minutes, 59 seconds and offers remarks from actors Zak Knutson and Rosario Dawson. Knutson dominates as he chats about his part and its challenges. This is an insubstantial piece but it becomes moderately interesting.
Look and you’ll find at least one Easter Egg on the first disc. From the second page of the “Special Features” menu, highlight “Play Introduction” and click right. Press enter to watch a 70-second snippet in which Smith tries to “close the Askewniverse Bible”. A scene at the end of Strike Back used this prop to imply there’d be no more adventures set in that universe, and Smith attempts to really finish off the series here – maybe.
DVD One opens with a few ads. We get clips for Fan Boys, Unknown, School for Scoundrels, Now You Know and Feast.
As we shift to DVD Two, we open with a documentary called Back to the Well: Clerks II. With optional Smith/Mosier intro, this piece lasts one hour, 30 minutes and 10 seconds. We find notes from Smith, Mosier, Mewes, O’Halloran, Anderson, Schwalbach, Fehrman, Klein, Knutson, former Miramax Films co-head of production Jon Gordon, 1st assistant editor Elliot Greenberg, and actors Rosario Dawson, Wanda Sykes, and Earthquake.
“Well” looks at the decision to revisit the Clerks universe and the influences that led to the flick. From there we go through the nuts and bolts of getting the cast back on board, writing the script and dealing with the studio, reactions to the sequel concept, and bringing in new actors. The program then moves through rehearsals, details of the actual production, camerawork and Klein’s return to the fold, Mewes’ attempts to deal with his substance abuse, editing, early screenings, the sound mix, going to Cannes, and the flick’s full release.
After three audio commentaries, it becomes inevitable that “Well” would duplicate a fair amount of information we already know. However, it manages to creates plenty of opportunities for fresh details and benefits from the surfeit of behind the scenes footage. “Well” gives us a reasonably fresh perspective on Clerks II and definitely stands as a strong documentary.
Next comes a Blooper Reel. Including another optional Smith/Mosier intro, this one fills 29 minutes and 55 seconds. More isn’t necessarily better, as this compilation includes little more than the usual goofs and giggles. A few funny moments emerge, but mostly we get the same old nonsense.
Train Wrecks: Video Production Diaries splits into 10 chapters. If you factor in the inevitable Smith/Mosier intro and watch them via the “Play All” option, they go for a total of 51 minutes, two seconds. These originally appeared on the movie’s website. Plenty more of them showed up there, but Smith picked his 10 favorites to plop on the DVD.
What do the 10 “Wrecks” cover? We go through hairstyles for Jay and Silent Bob, the first day of the shoot, meeting the crew, Jason Lee’s “Tongue Song”, filming the Dante/Emma make-out scene, a screening with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, more from Cannes, creating the burning Quick Stop, the poster photography session, and a prank at the Quick Stop location.
The “Wrecks” vary from pretty good to pretty pointless. At the low end of the spectrum, the Cannes segment is absurdly self-congratulatory. The best segments come from the effects demonstration as well as the chat with Rodriguez and Tarantino. Though the “Wrecks” are hit or miss, they’re a nice addition to the package.
In addition to a Clerks II Soundtrack Promotion, we find another Easter Egg. Highlight “Play with Introduction…” under “Blooper Reel” and click to the right. Hit enter to see a two-minute and 24-second clip called “Hooray for Hollywood”. This is a faux-preview for The Passion of the Clerks. It’s interesting to see as it spoofs old-time promos.
An awkward combination of broad gross-out material and sappy sentimentality, Clerks II fails to live up to its predecessor. Though better produced in every way, it’s not 1/10th as clever or involving as the original, especially when it becomes way too melodramatic and like a soap opera. The DVD presents very good picture as well as perfectly satisfactory audio and a terrific roster of extras. Kevin Smith fans will glom onto this one, but others should pick out one of his other films instead.