The First ‘Clerk III’ Reviews Reveal An (Unexpectedly) Deeply Personal (And ‘Strangely Poignant’) Kevin Smith Movie

After years of seeming like the film was possibly a pipe dream for writer/director Kevin Smith (he seriously teased the thing for almost a decade) Clerks III is finally starting to see the light of day. However, as the first reviews roll in, critics are clearly caught off-guard by the deeply personal tale. Mining Smith’s own experience with a heart attack that nearly killed him, Clerks III uses the writer/director’s most beloved characters, Dante and Randall, to tell a self-indulgent, but “strangely poignant” tale about grappling with one’s mortality.

Naturally, Jay and Silent Bob are along for the ride, but don’t expect a wild dick joke bonanza this time around. Not that there aren’t jokes, but Smith is taking a more meditative approach to the movie universe that surprisingly began with a tiny little black and white movie that could.

Here’s what the critics are saying:

John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter:

Smith knows he has enough loyal followers to justify multiple returns to nearly every well he has dug, at least those related to his “View Askewniverse.” But while some of his many spinoffs and sequels have smelled of near-desperation and little more, this one’s also personal: Inspired by the heart attack that nearly killed him in 2018, it’s a story about valuing those you love and trying to keep living until you’re dead. You know: heartwarming stuff, but with blasphemy, endless fanboy musings and jokes about fellatio.

Matt Donato, IGN:

Clerks III is the product of an ego-less filmmaker with nothing to lose. While Jay and Silent Bob Reboot was technically Kevin Smith’s first feature after miraculously surviving a “widowmaker” cardiac arrest, Clerks III marks Smith’s creative reckoning with the life-altering event. Jay and Silent Bob Reboot is an off-color war against reboot culture by an indie gunslinger — Clerks III is the meditative culmination of a father, husband, and geekdom advocate who came face-to-face with his mortality.

Andrew Barker, Variety:

Is this all wildly self-indulgent? A bit. Does it feel like the product of a filmmaker with plenty of fresh ideas? Not really. Has Smith lost his fastball as a writer? You could certainly make that case, and the screenplay’s attempts to recapture some of the rapid-fire pop culture references and x-rated musings of the director’s heyday often land painfully wide of the mark. But there’s something strangely poignant about it all the same. This film is clearly an unusually personal one for Smith.

Amy Kuperinsky,

“Clerks III” is like watching a singalong version of a popular movie musical — you know the songs, it’s more about the experience of singing together. So it follows that Smith, Mewes and the cast are touring with the film, as they did three years ago with “Reboot.” It also follows that Mewes is still owning all his scenes, starting with a dance sequence in a Devils jersey. The authenticity of his persona always made it seem like he was the soul of “Clerks,” and there’s enough of that spirit remaining so it still rings true.

Ross Bonaime, Collider:

Even more so than the previous installments of this series, Clerks III works because of the performances from O’Halloran and Anderson. These two have basically become Smith’s version of Jesse and Celine, and it has been brilliant watching them grow together. Clerks II had these two friends admitting that they loved each other and needed each other, and we begin from that point in Clerks III, as Dante and Randal are now not just co-workers and business partners, they admittedly need each other.

William Bibbiani, The Wrap:

“Clerks III” is serious to a minor fault and breezy to a minor fault. It’s got all the same laid-back, chill vibes cinema that Smith is well-known for, and the same immature approach to genuine maturity that he’s also known for, with a new sense of emotional severity that makes it harder to laugh than it probably should be. “Clerks III” is, if nothing else, “A Kevin Smith Film,” into which he has clearly poured his heart, his soul, his good intentions, and his disarming sense of whimsy. For better and occasionally for worse.

Christian Zilko, IndieWire:

Yes, “Clerks III” is about the characters from “Clerks” making “Clerks.” Although they wisely avoid rupturing the space-time continuum by naming their film “Inconvenience,” much of “Clerks III” consists of watching meticulous recreations of famous scenes. All of the famous anecdotes from the unorthodox shoot (like Smith writing about the shutters being jammed to hide the fact that they filmed at night or scrapping an original ending about Dante being killed by a robber) make it into the film, and Smith’s voice is so present in each character that it essentially feels like you’re watching a director’s commentary track.

Danielle Ryan, /Film:

Smith’s latest isn’t an easy watch, but neither is growing older. “Clerks III” is the director at his most mature and emotionally resonant. It would have been easy to make “Clerks III” an easy nostalgia-fest with lots of throwbacks, but instead Smith opted for something more. It’s a big swing that might not work for frat boys looking to laugh at dick and fart jokes, but that’s what “Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back” is for, after all. “Clerks III” brings things full circle at the Quick Stop in many ways, and it feels like a definitive ending to the saga he started.

Clerks III clocks into theaters on September 13.