‘Clerks II’ checks out 

‘Monster House’ a fixer-upper.

  • THEY'RE BACK: Clerks.

Sometimes you just have to cringe when you hear a sequel is being made. As seen in the prequels to the original “Star Wars” trilogy, nothing can suck the magic and life out of a beloved film like cranking out a lackluster sibling.

So I couldn’t help but fret when I heard Kevin Smith was making “Clerks II.” Still one of my favorite films, the original “Clerks” followed a day in the life of Dante and Randall, two strip-mall drones who happily whiled away their days with an endless stream of toilet jokes and questions about their place in the universe. Full of the incredibly perverse dialogue that became Smith’s trademark, “Clerks” still speaks to the Screaming Trees-listening, flannel-wearing, long-haired Gen-Xer inside of me like no other movie before or since.

The good news is, Smith has apparently been listening to his generation’s fears and faults. The result is a (filthy, disgusting) gem of a film.

After a fire at the strip mall, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randall (Jeff Anderson) are forced to take jobs at Mooby’s — a soulless, McDonald’s-meets-Disney burger chain. Set on the last day before Dante leaves for a new life in Florida — marrying a woman he doesn’t love in exchange for a career in her family’s business — the film is populated with Smith’s usual conglomeration of nuts, including the famous Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), and Becky (Rosario Dawson), who might or might not be the one woman who can keep Dante in Jersey.

In the end, “Clerks II” is a film with as much to say about where Gen-X is now as “Clerks” did about where Gen-X was then. As Smith points out, 20-something apathy easily becomes 30-something disillusionment. Multiply that by an American Dream that doesn’t really exist anymore, and you’ve got the hard truth that lurks behind the hilarity of “Clerks II”: that at a time when their parents already were firmly established in careers and family, all too many Gen-Xers feel like they’ve been left behind.

So, what starts as another of Smith’s goofball, dick-joke-filled romps ends as a film with more heart than anything I’ve seen this year. Hilarious, charming, blasphemous, moving and perverse (please, for the love of God, don’t see this movie if you’re easily offended), it’s a worthy successor to the original; a film with a soul.

— David Koon

Monster mash
Given that every neighborhood has a creepy, rumored-to-be-haunted house, the premise behind “Monster House” is a good one: A trio of friends — Chowder (Sam Lerner), Jenny (Spencer Locke) and DJ (Mitchell Musso) — discover that the local haunted house is not only haunted, it’s a monster, literally devouring anyone or anything that comes on the property.

Though “Monster House” has the tag-team might of powerhouse production with Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg behind it, the problem is one of visuals. Picturing a living, carnivorous house in your mind isn’t quite the same as picturing it on the screen. The result is a film that just comes across as simplistic and stupid.

Though the CGI-meets-hand-drawn-animation is cool to look at, what animation isn’t these days? Like the recent “Hoodwinked” and “Over the Hedge,” “Monster House” makes an admirable attempt, but ultimately disappears in a suburban hell of cookie-cutter children’s films.

— David Koon

'Dupree' delivers
A mild tickler, “You, Me and Dupree,” from co-directors/brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, aims no higher than a good knee-squeeze. Assuming you’ve seen the trailer, you already know this, but you might be surprised to learn the film actually delivers on its promise.

Matt Dillon is Carl, a good-looking worker unable to forget he married above his station thanks to his father-in-law boss, Mr. Thompson (Michael Douglas). Though the dynamics are more subtle, Carl is also wife Molly’s (Kate Hudson) whipping boy. Molly refuses to hear even the mildest rebuke of dear old dad, and eventually takes the side of Carl’s best friend Dupree (Owen Wilson), who inadvertently frays Carl’s last nerve.

However, as the title indicates, the film isn’t really about you and me, it’s about perpetually adolescent Dupree. Now in his late 30s, Dupree readily confesses, “I’m a pod still waiting for a bolt of lightning to give me my instructions.”

Carl invites the homeless Dupree to crash on his living room couch. Dupree sleeps late and naked, exhausted from organizing street baseball games while Carl and Molly work. He orders high-priced cable channels and takes over the couple’s answering machine. But the film would have us believe that Dupree doesn’t know any better.
The film hinges upon whether you find Wilson engaging to watch, but the story has something to say regarding the power struggles often engaged between newlyweds and their in-laws.

Nobody expects great movie-making with this sort of movie, but it resurrects your faith in comedies that “Dupree” doesn’t insult your intelligence while pulling your leg.

— Lisa Miller



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