Clerks II

So Randal and Dante are back in Kevin Smith's Clerks II , and they surprised me!

More than ten years after making directionless, lazy slackerdom appear charming and funny in the first Clerks, they now show us how tired that shtick can get when you've seen your thirtieth birthday come and go. Randal is still breaking the record as the world's worst employee as he surfs X-rated websites on the job, mocks a burger-ordering internet millionaire for his sell-out ways, hurls racial epithets at one customer, makes another one vomit, and brings the kind of transgressive performance art into the workplace that would give any HR director a heart attack. Talk about a red flag: When even stoner Jay (of Jay and Silent Bob) concludes, "Sometimes I wish I'd done more with my life," you have to wonder whether there's any hope left for Randal.

But Dante? By some miracle, he managed to jump over that fence into adulthood and discovered expectations. He decides he's sick of slinging EggaMoobyMuffins and figures out that perhaps he's been hanging out with the wrong crowd. In one of the few redeeming scenes of the movie, when they're sitting in lock-up and Randal calls Dante a sheep for wanting more out of life, Dante calls him on his BS: "What would you do if you were half the master of your destiny that you think yourself to be?" He reminds Randal how they ended up spending their entire twenties working at the Quickmart in the first place: they had started community college together, but dropped out soon after starting for lack of motivation. And here's what really impressed me. Unlike some of the folks whom Anya Kamenetz profiles and defends in her now notorious book Generation Debt (including someone who dropped out of community college because she didn't like the commute), Dante and Randal both figure out that what they need is a good kick in the pants. Wake up and smell the Mooby Coffee!

Surprise number two? When Dante decides that he wants to do something with his life and inspires Randal to jump the fence with him, I half-expected them to do what so many real-life people do when they're looking for a quick and easy entré into professional respectability: apply to law school. Instead, they figured out what they were really passionate about and made it happen. God bless 'em.