Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels
In some ways, Clerks the Animated Series parallels the original Clerks – both are raw and primitive, only scratching the surface of creator Kevin Smith’s talent. Unfortunately, the animated isn’t nearly as funny as the movie, though not for lack of trying. Actually, it tries too much too hard. The first two episodes in terms of broadcast sequence (in reality, they were the fourth and second episodes produced) are all over place, which is strange since the Clerks comic book (Oni Press), whose art style is mimicked by the animated series, is hysterical.
The debut episode, entitled "Episode Four," is barely coherent. Among other things, Randall goes to extreme measures to convince an high-powered attorney to help Jay sue the Quick Stop. Why? No good reason. Some bits are funny, like putting George Lucas on the witness stand to defend Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but the joke is beaten to death, as are jokes about Judge Reinhold being the judge in the case and repeated dream sequences. The ending is amusing, but it works best if you’re familiar with Asian animation such as Pokemon or Speed Racer, and even then it goes on too long. The second episode, "The Clip Episode," is a little better but again, a riff on the walling up the side of a building in the old camp Batman series is beaten to death, as are the Charles Barkley jokes in nearly every episode.
The good news is the show improves when it becomes more focused in later episodes. Sure there’s a certain amount of rambling in any Kevin Smith project, but in Mallrats, for instance, the basic framework holds together the various sidetracks. That’s harder to pull off in about 22 minutes, but award-winning animation producer/director/writer Paul Dini (Batman Beyond, among others) collaborated with Smith on the second episode, so there’s no excuse for it to be this disjointed. The episodes improve greatly with the fifth, first and sixth episodes (the last three that air of the six commissioned episodes) because they’re spoofs of films such as The Bad News Bears, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Last Starfighter, all filtered through Smith’s funny but bent perspective.
The voice talent is good though, with Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith reprising their original Clerks roles as Dante, Randal, Jay and Silent Bob, respectively. Alec Baldwin appears repeatedly as Leonardo Leonardo and a few of the parodied celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Charles Barkley appear as themselves.
Smith almost let UPN have the series rather than ABC and a struggling network might have given the series time to work out its kinks. Then again, UPN got its own version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in WWF Smackdown!, so it still might not have worked. It’s a shame because as it stands viewers only get a glimmer of what could have been another brilliant Smith production.
Review © 2000 Beth Hannan Rimmels.