I suppose lots of folks are fond of remembering Kevin Smith’s Clerks, a black-and-white indie that debuted in 1994. Not me. Since Clerks was released, I’ve not been tempted to revisit the movie and I somehow missed Clerks II, possibly because I was out of the country at the time of its release. Now comes Clerks III, a comedy that likely will provide a trip down nostalgia lane for Smith’s fans. Much of the original cast has returned, supplemented by Rosario Dawson, who appeared in the second installment. Smith’s brand of snark, pop-cultural awareness (90s style), and mild self-mockery have never been my cup of amusement. In this latest addition, convenience store co-owner (Jeff Anderson) convinces his pal Dante (Brian O'Hallaran) to help him finance a movie that very much resembles the original Clerks — or, as we’re prone to saying these days — a movie that adds a meta layer to its Jersey origins. Mildly amusing at times but muddied by the introduction of death as a topic of consideration, Clerks III features two (count 'em) heart attacks. Smith clearly knows how to add a bit of zest before the proceedings turn sentimental. Still, Clerks has little to offer those who are not committed to completing the Clerks cycle or waiting for several "surprise" cameos.
Simchas & Sorrows
Finally, a movie about converting to Judaism. I’m kidding of course. I doubt whether the world has been waiting for someone to explore this subject. But it's tackled head-in Simchas & Sorrows, a rom-com that interrupts a generally humorous approach for serious observations, most of them delivered by a progressive rabbi (Nari Nef) who refuses to ignore an elephant in the room: She raises the subject of Palestinians with the couples she instructs. Writer/director Genevieve Adams plays Agnes, a Catholic-educated woman who’s engaged to Levi (Thomas McDonell), a young Jewish man who wants his future wife to convert. Agnes, who has given up on religion, is also pregnant. The prospect of a child further complicates matters of cultural difference. The characters are rounded out by Levi’s brother and his condescending fiancee (Annalise Cepero), by Levi's father (Chip Zien) father, and by Agnes’s grandfather (John Collum). Adams conveys a message about tolerance, acceptance, and ways to live in a multi-cultural, multi-religious world but the movie seems to prefer sincerity to sharply realized drama. Yes, it’s good to be respectful and not be too insistent on dotting every “i” and crossing every cultural “t.” No arguing with the message, but a last-minute revelation feels like a cop-out and, to me at least, it didn't feel as if the movie had fully engaged with its subject.