DVDs Prove Kevin Smith Still Talks a Blue Streak
Friday, November 24, 2006
Tuesday offers two opportunities to see filmmaker Kevin Smith working at the craft that has defined his career: the art of talking.
The writer-director specializes in dialogue-driven comedies, the sort of films where plot can always be paused in favor of, say, an extended argument about the racial politics of the original "Star Wars" trilogy. "Clerks II" ($29.95), the sequel to Smith's low-budget indie debut, "Clerks," continues in that tradition, bringing its chatty, soft-core raciness to DVD in a two-disc collector's edition with a hefty amount of extras. And, in a double shot of Smith sequels, "An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder"($28.96) also arrives in a two-disc set.
"Evening Harder" includes a pair of two-hour Q&As presented by Smith in Toronto and London, part of the director's ongoing series of famously candid (and profanity-filled) speaking engagements. As he does on the original "Evening With Kevin Smith" DVD, a compilation of his appearances at U.S. colleges released in 2002, the New Jersey native beefs up his answers with lengthy digressions on everything from the movie business to being a dad to his sex life. During the Toronto show, for example, a simple question about how Smith deals with writer's block prompts a 15-minute soliloquy on his attempt to write a movie version of "The Six Million Dollar Man" and how awesome it is to watch Nickelodeon's "Dora the Explorer" while high.
The first "Evening With" gained notoriety among cinema buffs for Smith's revealing tales about Hollywood's elite, including a parti cularly sublime bit about his brief stint as rewrite guy on the movie that eventually became "Superman Returns." Nothing on the second "Evening" approaches the classic-story status of that "Superman" riff, but there's still plenty to entertain, if not necessarily enlighten, Smith's followers, including anecdotes about his 2004 flop "Jersey Girl"; some choice words about Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" ("I was taught to love Jesus, not [expletive] beat him up, so that movie I was just so, so not down with"); and shared moments onstage with actor Jason Mewes, who plays Jay to Smith's Silent Bob in several of the director's films. The London Q&A isn't as strong as the one from Toronto, perhaps because Smith begins by unleashing a barrage of criticism on U.K. gossip columnists the 3 a.m. Girls, who quoted an unnamed "insider" in a column bashing "Jersey Girl." It's one of the few instances when Smith sounds like one of the self-absorbed, whiny industry types he often mercilessly mocks.
The extras are limited to a pair of mildly funny man-on-the-street interviews conducted in both cities, one by Smith solo and another with Mewes. Anyone craving lots of DVD special features should head for the "Clerks II" release instead. In addition to three commentary tracks (did we mention that Smith really likes to talk?), the discs also include more than 20 deleted scenes, a 27-minute blooper reel, a featurette, video production diaries and, the set's centerpiece, a 90-minute "Clerks II" documentary called "Back to the Well." Unlike the fawning making-of mini-docs that studios often slap together for DVD, this one features revealing interviews, lots of footage from the set and delicious pieces of trivia that hard-core fans will relish. (Example: The female lead in "Clerks II," played by Rosario Dawson, was offered to a few other actresses first, including Bryce Dallas Howard, Ellen Pompeo of "Grey's Anatomy" and Sarah Silverman.) As for the movie, "Clerks II" stands as Smith's best and most mature work -- mature, of course, being a relative term for a flick in which the climactic scene involves bestiality. Still, by going back to that aforementioned well and allowing the characters from the original "Clerks" to, in their own way, grow up, Smith manages to create a comedy that's true to the filmmaker's roots, funny and even heartfelt. And, of course, filled with plenty of talking.