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review added: 3/20/01



Clerks Uncensored
2000 (2001) - Miramax

review by Brian Ford Sullivan of The Digital Bits

Clerks Uncensored Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/A-

Specs and Features

Disc One: The First Three Episodes
66 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), double Amaray keep case packaging, video introductions for each episode by Jay and Silent Bob, audio commentary (by executive producers Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier and Dave Mandel, supervising director Chris Bailey and actors Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, and Jason Mewes), "animatics" versions of each episode, film festival trailer, Super Bowl TV spot, The Clerks Style featurette, character development featurette, trailers for Clerks, Chasing Amy, Princess Mononoke, and A Hard Day's Night, DVD-ROM features (including script and storyboard viewer, character profiles and weblinks), animated program-themed menu screens with music, scene access (4-5 chapters per episode), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned

Disc Two: The Last Three Cartoons
66 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), double Amaray keep case packaging, video introductions for each episode by Jay and Silent Bob, audio commentary (by executive producers Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier and Dave Mandel, supervising director Chris Bailey and actors Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, and Jason Mewes), "animatics" versions of each episode, film festival trailer, Super Bowl TV spot, The Clerks Style featurette, character development featurette, trailers for Clerks, Chasing Amy, Princess Mononoke, and A Hard Day's Night, DVD-ROM features (including script and storyboard viewer, character profiles and weblinks), animated program-themed menu screens with music, scene access (4-5 chapters per episode), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none, Closed Captioned


I'm sure if told someone that there'd be an animated series based on Kevin Smith's Clerks, when it was first released in 1994, they would have thought you were crazy. Filled with all sorts of raunchy dialogue and situations, Smith's cult classic is remembered mostly on those merits alone. So how exactly would a movie that featured more swearing than a drinking binge at a naval base turn into a primetime animated series, let alone on the Disney-owned ABC network?

That question haunts a large part of this animated series, so much so that it's even addressed in the series' final episode. Clerks: The Animated Series has a colorful history, not unlike most short-lived television shows. Originally set to debut in March 2000, the show received a large amount of publicity, in no small part due to a promo that aired during the Super Bowl. But for whatever reason (creative problems, no good time slot was available, it was Tuesday, etc.), network executives held the series until the summer, when the show lasted all of two episodes before being replaced by repeats of Two Guys and a Girl and Spin City (no, I'm not kidding).

The show's failure was attributed in no small part to lack of promotion for the show, which coincidentally debuted the same night (albeit not against) as CBS' reality phenomenon Survivor. It's no surprise then that Clerks' fate was little different than most other series the networks dump on their summer schedule - DOA. But thanks to Kevin Smith's fan base and the growth of our favorite video format, the series is seeing a second light of day on DVD.

Clerks: Uncensored contains all six produced episodes of the series and includes previously unseen footage from the two episodes that actually aired. The show features the entire View Askew crowd, reprising their roles from the Clerks film, as it follows the continuing adventures of hapless clerks Dante (Brian O'Holloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson). Full of all the movie parodies and pop culture observations you'd expect from Kevin Smith, the series is actually funnier than you'd expect, particularly in the later episodes where the show starts to hit its stride. Each episode is essentially an "adult" take on all the Saturday morning cartoons we remember as kids - from the safety tips that conclude each episode of the Super Friends to the completely ridiculous plots that get resolved in a half-hour's time. Here's a rundown...

Episode 1

The "lost" pilot episode (ABC aired episode 4 first) opens with Randal and Dante musing about how nothing happens in Leonardo, New Jersey. Much to their surprise, something does happen - the opening of a Quicker Stop (a giant megastore designed to destroy their Quick Stop) by their unknown nemesis, Leonardo Lenoardo (voiced by Alec Baldwin... yes, that Alec Baldwin). The clerks must find a way keep their jobs and defeat the evil Leonardo.

Episode 2

In a take off of the over-used sitcom mainstay "the flashback episode," the clerks find themselves reminiscing about their lives together (which amusingly only references events from Episode 1) after being trapped in the Quick Stop freezer. But as this was the only other episode of Clerks that ABC actually broadcast, the joke was completely lost - audiences never got to see Episode 1!

Episode 3

After Leonardo Leonardo gets food poisoning from a spoiled Discreeto Burrito, Randal declares that a deadly viral outbreak has occurred and calls in the CDC to quarantine the town. It's up to the clerks to avoid the CDC commander (voiced by James Woods... yes, that James Woods) and find patient zero - monkey which has been abducted by Jay and Silent Bob so they can teach it how to smoke.

Episode 4

In the series' funniest episode, Jay sues Quick Stop after slipping on some soda the clerks negligently left on the floor. This leads to a giant courtroom showdown that features everyone from George Lucas to Charles Barkley to Pokemon. This 'toon is worth the price of this DVD set alone.

Episode 5

After attending a class reunion, the clerks decide to take control of their lives. Dante becomes a Bad News Bears-esque baseball team coach, while Randal seeks to beat his own high score on his favorite video game. All goes well until Randal gets a perfect score in the game and, in pure Last Starfighter fashion, is taken away by the government in order to combat a secret enemy.

Episode 6

The show's final episode features a "breaking the fourth wall" installment, where the clerks attend a comic book convention and are accosted by fans of the Clerks movie for being nothing like the original film. To fix things, Dante and Randal vow to never leave the Quick Stop... even after all sorts of crazy things like gorilla attacks and a presidential visit occur in Leonardo, New Jersey.

So that's the entire series in a nutshell. I have to say that I usually find animated series amusing only when they try to cram as many jokes as possible into an episode. Thankfully, that's just the case here. Making fun of everything from the obvious (like Star Wars and The Last Starfighter) to the more obscure (UPN's failed sitcom The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane), the show doesn't rest on its laurels at any point in admittedly its brief run.

It's nice just to have this series on DVD and, thankfully, Miramax has put together quite an impressive 2-disc set. The video and audio look absolutely fantastic - the colors and animation are highly detailed despite the series' "simple" appearance. And while the Dolby Digital 2.0 mix isn't going to win any awards, it absolutely fits with the television presentation the series was designed for.

Those familiar with any of Kevin Smith's DVDs know that the audio commentary has always been the most fun part of the DVD presentation. And the same can definitely be said of this set. A virtual smorgasbord of talent, the commentary features just about everyone involved with the project. The best part is that the commentary extends across all six episodes - it's quite a treat. The group talks about the obviously dubious history of the show, as well as the difficulty of making an animated series. There's also a neat discussion of never-realized ideas for future episodes, which I won't spoil here. All I will say is this - the K.I.T.T. episode idea sounded hilarious.

The set also features "animatic" versions of each episode, which are essentially the "rough cuts" of the animation. Those interested in the behind-the-scenes mechanics involved in animation should enjoy this look at how the storyboards gradually evolve into the final product. The animatics also feature the nifty option of listening to either the audio commentary or the actual dialogue and sound from the final episode. Some even feature jokes that weren't used in the final cartoon.

Also included on these discs are a pair of 10-minute featurettes that discuss how the look of the show came about, as well as how the character designs were finalized. Particularly interesting here is Jay's character, which is vastly different from the original concept. There are a handful of trailers for other Miramax releases, as well as the aforementioned Super Bowl TV spot and a film festival trailer. And those with DVD-ROM capabilities can also check out a neat "script to storyboard" viewer and even more character sketches for the show. Thankfully, all of these extra features are duplicated on both discs, which enhances ease of use.

If you're even the most peripheral Kevin Smith fan, or are a fan of animation in general, this is a must have DVD release for your collection. At the end of the commentary, Kevin Smith mentions that there's a possibility for a Clerks animated feature in the future. If it's anything like the television incarnation, count me in... especially if they use that K.I.T.T. idea.

Brian Ford Sullivan
bfsullivan@thedigitalbits.com




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