Kevin Smith has taken up an inordinate amount of my life for a filmmaker who has made only one movie I actually consider great.
Like many others, my first experience with his work was in 1994, when I went to see his weird little movie, Clerks, at The Varsity Theatre. I was more than a little amused, but hardly blown away. The sketchy acting bothered me less than the incongruous humor style of the bathroom reveal near the end. I'm all in favor of incredibly offensive humor, huge fan of early John Waters right here, but it did - and still does, to me - feel like it leaped from a different movie.
I also did manage to see Mallrats in the theater somehow. I guess growing up in the suburbs, this really seemed promising to me. This was still uneven, but highly amusing and seemed to do a good job honing in on the likability of his characters in some further way.
Chasing Amy was a huge leap forward and seems to remain the stick by which his future endeavors will be measured, not only by me but by the world in general. It certainly takes the themes he had been struggling to speak to in the earlier films and really says it in a very honest way, while remaining funny as all get out.
Somewhere during this period, I came across the infamous View Askew Message Board and discovered that, while my path with his movies was rough, if enjoyable, I really, really liked Kevin.
During this, I revisited each of the earlier movies more than a couple of times. They became, to me, less like movies and more like weird friends you visit occasionally, some are less pleasant through various times than others, but you have an affection for all. Mallrats, in that, is the easiest buddy to spend wasted time with, just hanging out.
Then came Dogma, from the funniest screenplay I've ever read. It's a disjointed movie with a lot of great material that frequently doesn't quite gel. I originally thought it was the fact that I read the screenplay in advance and had an image burned in my head. I've watched it several times since and am now convinced that it's not that but rather that he didn't edit properly at the script stage and was forced to edit too much from the movie itself and didn't always have the material to make it work quite right... not to mention Linda Fiorentino never quite working in the lead.
By the time Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back came out, I was still regularly visiting the board, but enjoying it much less. The movie, on the other hand, has the easy-going style of Mallrats with some of the stronger filmmaking he gained from Dogma. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but it still hasn't knocked Mallrats from the easiest to watch slot.
Jersey Girl was, and remains, the only movie of his I didn't see in the theater... and thankfully. My review is here, but the short version is, "It sucks!"
All of this was intended to give some perspective to why I don't have a firm grasp of my feelings on Clerks II yet, but I'm not sure it would. As I've said, his movies work better to me as friendships, and Chasing Amy, and its glorious perfection and easy status as best friend, and Jersey Girl, and it simple status as the kindly moron, aside, the movies have all grown and shifted in my mind and become different things than when my relationships with them began.
I like very much that he seems to be back to exploring his own feelings, unlike, say, in Jersey Girl, in which he spends a lot of time exploring feelings he anticipated having in the future. The Quick Stop clearly respresents his View Askewniverse here. The romantic relationship issue clearly mirrors, in some ways, the one he was in around the time of Dogma.
I really do like it a lot, but it's like the guy in your circle of friends that likes everything you like and has a similar sense of humor and you enjoy being with in the group, but for some reason you can't put your finger on, you still don't have any real desire to spend much one-on-one time with, but perhaps it'll continue to grow on me.
The other factors, Clerks: The Cartoon is hilarious through much, especially later on it started to really catch its footing and be headed somewhere. It's too bad it wasn't given a better chance.
An Evening with Kevin Smith is terrific. Once again, his personal likeability is heavily in play here, but also gut-bustingly funny stories about Jon Peters and Prince really send it over the top to a kind of crazy brilliance. An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder is also likeable, in the sitting and listening to a likeable, funny guy talk, but never rises above amusing and charming to sublime or even hilarious.
I'm not sure what I expect or hope for from his future work. Perhaps, like the evening compilations, he needs some greater complication for his life in order to move forward with his art, rather than the lateral moves he seems to be taking. I don't mean to suggest he shouldn't be able to tell them all in the View Askewniverse, if he's most comfortable there, but he seems to need something to say and lacking for it.
Kevin Smith is a "Manchild" reports him having an acting role on a series, of all things. This is interesting news, although I can't much comment.
Who knows? I reckon I'll continue watching from a distance.