Chronicling a day in the life of Quick Stop clerk Dante Hicks, CLERKS captures the hilarity of the humdrum even as it raises slackerdom to existential proportions. From behind his counter, Dante desperately tries to exert some power over the crazy customers, his own love life, and his incorrigible friend and fellow clerk Randal--the type who sees nothing wrong in closing the video shop he works in to go rent movies from a better store.
Made for less than the cost of an SUV, Kevin Smith's first film finds 22-year-old Quick Stop clerk Dante Hicks (Brian O'Halloran) called into work on his precious day off. There he is besieged by customers ranging from the agitated to the insane, not to mention Randal (Jeff Anderson), the clerk from the video store next door whose commitment to service is made clear when he observes, "This job would be great if it wasn't for the f@&%!#* customers." Dante's love life is a shambles, and the situation at the store goes from bad to worse, but he and Randal are never so beleaguered that they can't find time to discuss why the destruction of the Death Star in RETURN OF THE JEDI may have been morally dubious (uninvolved contractors were probably aboard). In fact, it was the clerks' clever dialogue, saturated with pop-culture references, that elevated CLERKS to cult-hit status among Generation-Xers and transformed Kevin Smith from film school dropout to indie auteur. Smith himself plays Silent Bob, while Jason Mewes plays Jay, his drug-dealing other half. Together the duo provide added comic relief, continuity, and wisdom in each of the the director's films.
CLERKS was shown at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, where the film won the Filmmaker's Trophy. It was reported as having the smallest budget of any film entered in the festival that year. The budget was estimated at a mere $27,000. The film was also the surprise comedy hit at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. The filmmaker, Kevin Smith, worked at the Quick Stop in Leonardo, New Jersey during production. The film was shot there, and at the RST Video next door. Smith was only allowed to shoot at night, when the store was closed--hence the closed shutters, which are explained away in the script. The budget for the film is reported to have been $27,575 by Smith's ViewAskew Productions. Smith financed the film with credit cards, his Quick Stop earnings, family assistance, and by selling his comic book collection. When the film was a success, he bought back the comics (and bought himself a comics shop). The soundtrack rights cost more than the production costs. The film was originally rated MPAA NC-17 for language, but the rating was appealed and changed with the help of Alan Dershowitz. In an alternate ending to the film, Dante is shot in a holdup. This scene is available on the DVD version. Jeff Anderson (Randal) and Lisa Spoonauer (Caitlin), who met on the set, were subsequently married. CLERKS: THE ANIMATED SERIES, a cartoon based on the film, ran for only two episodes in 2000. The CLERKS logo on the film poster is made of letters clipped from various convenience-store products: the "C" is from Cosmopolitan magazine, the "L" from Life cereal, the "E" from Rolling Stone magazine, the "R" from Ruffles potato chips, the "K" from Clark Bar candy, and the "S" from Goobers candy. "The real tragedy is that I'm not even supposed to be here today!"--Dante (Brian O'Halloran)
"...The funniest movie this side of a Big Gulp..." - Recommended - 06/01/1995 Premiere, p.116
"...A buoyant, bleakly funny comedy....The two main actors are fresh and engaging..." - 03/25/1994 New York Times, p.C10
"...Refreshing....Smith's wit, verve, and imagination elevate the schematic..." -- Rating: A- - 05/19/1995 Entertainment Weekly, pp.68-70
"...The SLACKER generation is alive and well in CLERKS, a randy, irreverent, slice-of-life no-budgeter that's played for laughs and gets them....CLERKS is a grunge movie par excellence..." - 01/31/1994 Variety
"...CLERKS is a circumspect comedy about the mundane and profane....The young cast have a gift with timing....[A] grass-roots catalogue of the weird and wondrous..." - 05/01/1995 Sight and Sound, p.42-3
"...Smith shows great invention, a natural feel for human comedy, and a knack for writing weird, sometimes brilliant dialogue..." - 11/04/1994 Chicago Sun-Times, p.23
"[A] slacker phenomenon....Still funny." - 09/01/2005 Uncut, p.146