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A Mighty Heart

In A Mighty Heart, Angelina Jolie finally proves her Oscar win wasn't a fluke —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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Ten years ago, I was a clerk, slogging away at the front lines of the retail world. Oh sure, they called me a “sales associate,” but I knew where I stood. At the same time, Kevin Smith, a 23-year-old film school dropout and clerk, touched a chord when he used his crappy job as inspiration for a very funny, crude movie called Clerks.

The surprise hit of 1994 has been released on a new 10th anniversary edition DVD. The three-disc set contains two versions of the movie and extra features that will tell the movie’s fans as much as they ever wanted to know about Clerks.

Not Supposed to Be Here

Miramax fills 3 discs with Kevin Smith's $27,000 debut
Miramax fills 3 discs with Kevin Smith’s $27,000 debut

The movie opens with Dante (Brian O’Hallaran) getting a call from his boss, who needs him to come in on his day off from the Quick Stop. Clerks follows Dante through a weird and frustrating day of wage slavery. Besides watching a parade of frustrating customers come and go, he spends the day chatting with his friend, Randal (Jeff Anderson), a clerk at the video store next door, juggling girlfriends past and present, and dealing with Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith), the druggies who hang around all day.

Made for just $27,000, Clerks has an amateur feel. It was shot on grainy 16mm film. The actors were either from a community theater or were Smith’s friends, and their performances could never have won them any Oscars. The movie’s humor is what saves it from low-budget oblivion. Smith was able to create some memorable situations and funny dialogue, like Dante learning about the sexual exploits of his girlfriend (37 is the magic number for Clerks fans), or the discussion the fate of the independent contractors on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

DVD Extras

The extras on this DVD seem like overkill at times, as they repeatedly tell the story behind the movie. The most concise version is Snowball Effect, a 90-minute documentary on disc three, which begins with Smith’s childhood influences and ends with successful screenings of Clerks at the Sundance Film Festival. Some of the more memorable factoids behind Clerks are: Mewes has recently stopped drinking, Anderson got married to Lisa Spoonhauer (who played Dante’s ex-girlfriend) and Smith was initially embarrassed by the films crude dialogue. The disc also includes several scenes cut from the documentary.

The DVD set includes both theatrical and director’s cuts of the movie, each with a commentary track. The most notable differences between two versions are the music soundtrack (the later release has better music), and the downbeat original ending, which was changed for the theatrical release to a more neutral ending.

The commentary for the theatrical version on disc one was done in 1995 by Smith, O’Hallaran, Mewes, producer Scott Mosier, and others, for the original LaserDisc release. They give some background into the movie and point out little things like continuity errors. Only two or three of the participants have microphones, making the others very difficult to hear. The director’s cut on disc two has commentary recorded in 2004 by Smith, Mosier, O’Hallaran, Anderson and Mewes and they end up telling some of the same behind-the-scenes stories. Viewers have the option of watching the guys recording their commentary, but it’s not very interesting visually.

Among the more fun features are some shorts made for MTV featuring Jay and Silent Bob and an animated version of a scene that was not filmed. A bonus trivia track on disc one has bits of trivia popping up, including definitions of the words on the title cards scattered throughout the movie.

Picture and Sound

As the movie was shot on 16 mm film, it didn’t look great when it first played in theaters and it still doesn’t look great, although the film was restored for this DVD (a subject of one of the special features). The sound also suffers from the film’s low budget. The picture and sound quality of the newer special features are excellent.

Conclusion

Sitting alone in my basement, I didn’t find the movie as funny as I had ten years ago in a crowded theater. So invite some fellow Clerks fans over, pop open a few beers and be prepared to laugh.