Clerks Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) may be too old for this shift, but writer-director Kevin Smith's Clerks III is ringing up a Rotten Tomatoes score worthy of a "snoochie boochies." Smith's sequel to 1994's Clerks and 2006's Clerks II — playing in select theaters September 13-18 ahead of Smith's roadshow tour — debuted on the critic aggregation site with a "fresh" 69% approval from 26 reviews at press time. The 69 percent is higher than Clerks II (63%) but lower than Smith's career-making directorial debut with the original '90s indie cult-classic Clerks (90%). See excerpts from the first Clerks III reviews below.
IndieWire: "Kevin Smith's meta three-quel sees him indulge far too many of his worst instincts as a filmmaker. Fortunately, his best ones make an appearance, too ... devotees of Smith and his View Askewniverse will likely delight in the tribute he made to his own masterpiece, even if the main emotion it evokes is a strong desire to rewatch Clerks."
The Hollywood Reporter: "Like an ouroboros that has tired of sucking his own tail and moved on to another body part, Kevin Smith's Clerks III is about as pure an exercise in self-referential self-gratification as you get on a movie screen, and if your understandable response is, "who the hell asked for this," well, you're just not paying attention ... Any man who still gets to make movies after directing Yoga Hosers is already living on borrowed time, heart attacks be damned. And anyone who keeps going to see them really has no grounds to complain about how drab and uninspired they are."
The New York Times: "[Smith's] idea of meta fails to split the difference between the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the French New Novel. It has more the manner of a pinball in a machine that's about to enter tilt mode."
TheWrap: "The finale of Clerks III is genuinely heartwarming and thoughtful, with a generous application of dorky humor for flavor. Very much the Smith aesthetic. But the film's actual conclusion, during the closing credits, is either a profound attempt to completely demolish all cinematic pretense once and for all, or it's a shockingly lazy attempt to give the film two very different final moments instead of actually committing to a single narrative decision. Frankly, with Smith, whose loosey-goosey filmmaking approach sometimes straddles the line between charming and half-assed, it's hard to tell."
In the New Jersey-shot threequel, convenience store co-owner Randal survives a massive heart attack inspired by Smith's real-life "widow-maker." He enlists Dante, Elias (Trevor Fehrman), Jay (Jason Mewes), and Silent Bob (Smith) to make a movie about their lives and the convenience store that started it all: the Quick Stop.
"I wanted to tell my heart attack story with my characters," Smith told EW of his return to the Clerks corner of the View Askewniverse after 15 years. "So Randal, the video-store guy, has a massive heart attack. While he recovers, he laments that he's wasted his life watching movies and never thought about making one himself. Randal and Dante essentially make their own version of Clerks, a black-and-white movie called Inconvenience."
The premise of the long-in-the-works Clerks III is "incredibly meta," Smith said. The snake really eats its own tail, swallows itself, and s---s itself out, and that is Clerks III. You can put that on the poster! [Laughs]."
Lionsgate releases Clerks III exclusively in theaters on September 13. Tickets are now on sale for Clerks 3: The Convenience Tour, Smith's roadshow bringing the movie to select markets in September, October, and November.1comments