If it ain'tbroke, milk it, as they say in Hollywood.

So why did New Jersey homeboyKevin Smith wait all of 12 years before returning to the successfulsmall-town-buddies formula of his cult debut, Clerks'

True, Smith has done stridentvariations on the theme - Mallrats -and lame spin-offs - Jay and Silent BobStrike Back(JSBSB).

But this is the first timethat he's summoned his high-school friends Brian O'Halloranand Jeff Anderson back for a rematch as eternal clerks Dante Hicks and RandalGraves.

The result sometimes feelslike an extended sitcom episode - but it's a funny, fast-paced, risque sitcom with some great one-liners.

Unprudish slacker and post-slackeraudiences will lap this up, though only diehard Smith fans will buy the(thankfully brief) doses of sentimental you're-my-buddy schmaltz.

A surprise R rating (Smithwas apparently braced for another NC-17 repeal battle) will help Clerks II toequal and perhaps top the $30m domestic takings of the director's top grossers, JSBSBand Dogma; and auxiliary sales shouldbe buoyant.

Smith's films generally doonly modestly in non-English-speaking territories overseas, if they get seen atall.

But Clerks II has enough standalone panache to overcome the lack of aserious fan base abroad and achieve at least comic curio status.

The opening scene switchesneatly between blackand white - a nostalgic homage to the original Clerks - and colour, as an older, paunchier Dante turns up foranother day at the Quick Stop grocery store, only to discover that the place isburning down.

Responsible Dante and hissardonic, foul-mouthed, live-by-the-day buddy Randall are forced to take jobsat Mooby's, a fast-food chain based on a golden calfcharacter that is one of the recurring motifs in Smith's comic Sim City (a world known as the Viewaskewniverse, after his View Askew production company).

Dante now has a glamorousbut domineering girlfriend, Emma (played by the director's wife Jennifer Schwalbach Smith) with whom he is about to moveto Florida.

But he's clearly far more intune with his sexy branch manager Becky (a feisty Rosario Dawson): the twoengage in some wistful, last-chance flirtation that veers between tender andgooey. Outside the store, stoner drug dealers Jay (Jason Mewes)and Silent Bob (Smith himself), lounge around once more, unchanged after rehabexcept for a touch of born-again Christianity.

In fan-service comedyfranchises like this, just being seen is half the battle: hence the cameos bySmith regulars Ben Affleck and Jason Lee.

So muchfor the plot.The core business of this film (which was originally to have been called The Passion Of The Clerks)is to keep the laughs coming, and the badinage here is as good as anythingSmith has written.

PC orthodoxies are sniped atin the extended 'porch monkey' and Anne Frank gags, there's a running series ofLord Of The Rings jokes ("threemovies, and it was people walking to afucking volcano"), and the gross-out sexual skits include a climactic donkeyshow whose frank display of "inter-species erotica" out-porksPorky's.

But however smutty it gets,the humour is grounded in character and the dead-end tedium of smalltown America and its McJobs.

The look of the thing is televisual, and so is much of the acting; only a sensuous,screen-hogging Dawson drags the standard up anotch or two. Whatever: Clerks II isfunny, and it moves along at a cracking pace. Which is more than you can sayfor most of the films Smith has made since the original Clerks.

Production companies

The WeinsteinCo.

View Askew

International sales

The WeinsteinCo.


Scott Mosier

Kevin Smith

Executive producers

Bob Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein

Carla Gardini


David Klein

Production design

Marc Fisichella


Kevin Smith


James L Venable

Main cast

Jeff Anderson

Brian O'Halloran

Rosario Dawson

Trevor Fehrman

Jennifer SchwalbachSmith

Jason Mewes

Kevin Smith