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Click above to purchase "Clerks Uncensored" at amazon.com

Clerks Uncensored
(Animated Series)

review by Zach B.

Rated R

Studio: Disney

Running Time: 130 minutes

Starring the voices of Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Commentary with Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Dave Mandel, Chris Bailey, Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes, Animatics, Jay and Silent Bob Introductions, Character Development Featurette, "The Clerks Style" Featurette, "Super Bowl" TV Spot, Film Festival Trailer, Trailers. DVD-ROM: Script/Storyboard Viewer, Character Profiles, Weblink

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Surround, English Captions, Chapter Search (Episode 1 - 5 Chapters, Episodes 2-6 - 4 Chapters), Two-Disc Set

My friend once asked me if I ever saw "Clerks". I told him yes and he replied "Good. Your life is not complete until you see 'Clerks'." Some may disagree, but most of you can say (including me) that he's right. When "Clerks" came out in 1994, I think it's fair to say that once again, history on the independent film scene was made. Kevin Smith struggled to make a film about a day in the life of two clerks (I heard he maxed out his friends' credit cards to get it done). However, his hard work paid off. Earning great buzz at film festivals, "Clerks" took America by storm in the fall of 1994. It was a monumental success thanks to Smith's sharp writing as well as directing, nicely put references and great acting. Kevin Smith became a household name, an it certainly would not be the last of him.

The following year, Smith released "Mallrats" which I felt was overbashed. Next, he did "Chasing Amy", which earned raves and did fairly well at the box office. Smith just kept getting hotter, and soon he'd be caught in a wave of controversy for the religious flick "Dogma". "Dogma" earned some nice reviews and was his biggest box office success. Currently, Smith is doing another film with his beloved characters entitled "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back", and he's set to revive the "Fletch" franchise.

Somewhere in all of this, despite many rumors of a "Clerks" sequel, Smith developed an animated series of the film. This news excited many people, including me. An animated "Clerks"? Who knew what Smith could create with the unlimited possibilities of animation? However, as many of us know, Smith got screwed over with the series. I personally think the battle that ensued was terrible, and the series never got a fair or even semi-decent treatment.

Six episodes of the show were created, an average number for a midseason replacement. The only problem was, the show never became a midseason replacement. At the last minute, ABC shifted the show from its March launch until May. An angry Smith ranted and spoke bitterly about it, and honestly, who can blame him? A lot of effort was put into the show, and it became really anticipated by many Smith fans. ABC even ran an ad during the Super Bowl advertising the show for March (and it can be seen on this DVD, with "Spring" crossed out into "Summer" and then "Whatever"). Many fans were disappointed at the delay and what ABC did, but the delay meant more bad news: starting it on the last day of May really meant the show had no chance of survival. If you're familiar with television Nielsen ratings, than you should know that summer is the worst time for TV viewing. It's all reruns, they're movies out, etc. but summer really is a dumping ground. No one watches TV during the summer. May 31st the show debuted... season finales just ended. Who's really going to turn in? ABC used the success of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" as an example that a summer series could become more, and that "Clerks" had a chance. Of course, that's all BS, because "Millionaire" was really one in a million (no pun intended). No one expected that kind of success. A good amount of shows bomb during midseason, but a lot do return for additional episodes and a full run in the fall. I personally thought if Clerks started to air that March, it would have had a good chance.

The show got a decent start the first week, but bombed the second week. The show only aired twice. Many were up in arms that ABC ruined the original order of the episodes. The first episode shown was really the fourth episode, and to many people, it didn't make much sense. Characters were there that were never introduced before, and I felt it was a bad move. The second episode was the real second episode... but it was a flashback episode. Yes, it may sound silly that there is a flashback episode for the second one, but it's all in good fun. What wasn't in good fun was that the episode made no sense, because it made references to the "real" first episode that never aired. Confused? You should be.

It didn't end there. The second episode caused a lot of controversy due to a movie parody. "Flintstone's List" was a take off on "Schindler's List", and most of it ended up getting cut (This set, however, shows it in it's full form). Many felt it was making fun of the Holocaust, but I personally felt it was making fun of Spielberg himself. The news of the cut made a good amount of newspapers, but the scene in full was available to look at on the official website. For a show that was shifted and with not much hype, "Clerks" was getting a ton of publicity.

As far as reviews for the show went, I read quite a few, and many criticized the show. Reviewers felt the show was cliched and unoriginal (uh... no?). I was initially turned off by the reviews I read, but still being a Smith fan, I tuned in. I didn't understand what everyone disliked. I loved the show. It was not what I was expecting and maybe that's why I liked it so much. It brought a very large smile to my face and made me laugh out loud, something I don't do much when watching TV. Sure, I enjoy some sitcoms and programs and think they're funny, but usually not laugh out loud funny.

Smith is the type of filmmaker who will fight and support whatever he does, and I have respect for that. He's done it for all his films and fought a lot of controversy, and I'm glad he had such a passion for his series. Shortly after the show was canned, Smith announced there would be a deluxe DVD edition. My prayers were pretty much answered. It was a bit off, but I couldn't wait.

And so finally, "Clerks Uncensored" arrives on DVD. This is a really, and I mean really nice set. I'll get into the extras and other details a bit later, but every Smith fan and series fan will love this set and will be beyond pleased with it. Before I begin with that, I'll take you through each episode of the show and my thoughts on them. Let's begin (note, some summaries have minor spoilers)...

Episode 1 - "The Pilot" or "Leonardo Leonardo Returns And Dante Has An Important Decision To Make": The real first episode that ABC didn't think was a good premiere, I have to say, it's not my favorite either. Still, to those who have never seen the film and for the series in general, it gives a very nice overview of the setting characters and tone. The basic plot pretty much involves Leonardo Leonardo opening a mall-like convenience store called "Quicker Stop" across the street from Quick Stop. Randal and Dante are worried about their jobs, but they are offered ones by Leonardo Leonardo himself. Randal pretty much screws the whole situation, but the two attempt and try to stop Quicker Stop. There are some funny lines and scenes here, and again, gives a good overview of the series generally.

Episode 2 - "The Clipshow Wherein Dante and Randal Are Locked In The Freezer And Remember Some Of The Great Moments In Their Lives": The second episode (and last) that aired on ABC, here, Dante and Randal get trapped in the Quick Stop's freezer. The two have flashbacks about things they did together. Jay and Silent Bob soon join them, and have flashbacks as well, and soon, Silent Bob breaks them out, but Randal and Dante get locked inside RST Video. More flashbacks occur there. This is a very enjoyable episode, however, it really made no sense to air it second, because it makes references to the first episode that didn't air first... and never even aired. There are some pretty funny references here. Plus, on the disc, you get "Flintstone's List" all uncut. All in all, very entertaining.

Episode 3 - "Leonardo Is Caught In The Grip Of An Outbreak Of Randal's Imagination And Patrick Swayze Either Does Or Doesn't Work In The New Pet Store": The third episode focuses on Randal's over-exaggeration of an ebola-like virus in Leonardo due to a monkey at the pet store down the street, and sure enough, everyone believes him. While the real reason Leonardo Leonardo becomes ill is obvious, there's a lot of funny sendups in this episode including a nice homage to the movie "Outbreak" (which is even mentioned directly). And how can you go wrong with the mockery of Patrick Swayze? This episode really shows what the series has to offer and what it could accomplish.

Episode 4 - "A Dissertation On The American Justice System By People Who Never Been Inside A Courtroom Let Alone Know Anything About The Law, But Have Seen Way Too Many Legal Thrillers": The first episode that aired, and my favorite. This is a really zany and inspired episode (plus an incredible ending) where Randall wagers Dante that he can take care of the Quick Stop. Of course, he can't, and Dante helps him out as Randal admits it. Randal then reluctantly tries throwing a soda can with some liquid in it into a garbage bag, but misses, and soda spills. Jay and Silent Bob come in, where Jay slips on the soda puddle. Randal says that Jay should sue for ten million dollars, and pursues a big Manhattan lawyer to take the case. And there, a legal court battle begins. A lot of funny stuff here and I think, the best of all the episodes. I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard at something on television.

Episode 5 - "Dante And Randal And Jay And Silent Bob And A Bunch Of New Characters And Lando Take Part In A Whole Bunch Of Movie Parodies Including, But Not Exclusive To, The Bad News Bears, The Last Star Fighter, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, Plus A High School Reunion": In this installment Dante and Randal go to their tenth high school reunion, where we learn that Randal has some special power after he's done with a woman. Dante tries to hang out with his fellow baseball teammates from high school where he was the team manager, but they don't remember him and gets pretty bruised. Leonardo Leonardo, from the class of 1970, is also neglected so Dante and him get drunk. By some twist of fate, Dante becomes coach for Leonardo Leonardo's little league team, while Randall becomes obsessed with an arcade game he used to play and is "recruited". A ton of movie references here to enjoy, plus this delivers a good amount of laughs.

Episode 6 - "The Last Episode": The final episode goes out with a bang, where Dante is supposed to meet his ex-Katlin. However, Dante and Randal are stuck at Quick Stop since there is a fair in town, but Jay and Silent Bob come in pretty often to tell them what's happening outside... and with Katlin. This episode works on two levels. Those who haven't seen the movie will get it, but there's a lot of references and hidden jokes to those who have seen it. There's also some pretty funny pop culture references... so if you've never seen "Clerks" (the movie) before, you may want to watch it first before watching this episode.

This show had so much going for it, and I'm sure if it really had a fair chance, this could have been a great animated series that could have lasted for ages. The first six episodes boasts an impressive list of guest stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, James Woods and Julia Sweeny (with Alec Baldwin as a regular!). Add in some wacky situations and a ton of pop culture references, and what you have is a brilliant and really enjoyable show. Too bad though... these six episodes have a lot to offer.

 

Each one of the six episodes are presented in it's original aspect ratio of airing (or how they were going to be aired) in 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are great. I wouldn't expect any kind of blemishes and dirt, and there aren't any. The only problem I'd think a transfer like this would have would be noise or shimmering. Surprisingly, I didn't notice any of that either (woohoo!). Everything looks splendid. The comic book-like animation style and bold colors pop right out and there's smooth motion throughout. No noticeable artifacts either. It's all very vibrant and all very well done.

When some TV shows made their way to DVD, sometimes they were mixed to Dolby Digital 5.1. "Clerks" is only in 2.0 Dolby Surround, and while I think 5.1 could have worked pretty well, the surround track is great and a lot better than I expected. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear, and music doesn't overlap it. There's also no distortion or hiss. The surround effects are pretty plentiful and are pretty good. Take "Episode 3" where the Stealth Fighter flies in the sky, or the first episode with the firecrackers exploding. Each episode has some nice effects to be heard, and while I know some of you would have liked a 5.1 mix, this track gets the job done perfectly. Surround mixes don't get much better than this. Plus, I think this is the first ever Disney disc where you CAN ACTUALLY CHANGE THE AUDIO WHEN WATCHING. I could be wrong, but all the other Disney discs I have you can't. AMAZING!

I would have been content if this DVD just had all the episodes. And while it does, Smith and company have thrown in some excellent extras to make this package even more worthwhile. Thankfully, Smith is the kind of filmmaker who likes supplements and what the fans want.

All six episodes feature a Commentary with Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier, Dave Mandel, Chris Bailey, Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson and Jason Mewes. While several TV sets tend to have a commentary on one episode ("Sopranos" and the upcoming "Buffy" set come to mind), here, you're treated to six commentaries. And if you've heard past Smith commentaries, you know what you're getting in for. Each track is really lively and considering what went on with the series, there's a ton to say. Comments are not always so screen specific, but I really just absorbed and found everything said interesting as well as captivating. Smith does most of the talking and the others respond as well as point things out. They talk about how ABC didn't promote the show, controversies and whatnot. There's some funny moments and the commentary is like old friends talking, just having a good time. There are no pauses, no gaps, the commentaries flow great. O'Halloran, Anderson and Mewes don't talk as much, but they have things to say, and their comments are pretty funny and welcome. Commentaries don't get much better than this. Definitely listen to each commentary, you'll learn a ton about the show and have a great time too. Once again, Smith and crew deliver a fantastic commentary (well, commentaries). They also mention toward the end of the last one that there will definitely be a "Clerks" animated movie in the "near future". I personally can't wait. It doesn't get much better than this folks. Also, as I mentioned, you CAN change tracks during the course of an episode... this is the first Disney disc I've seen that lets you do this. Sweetness.

Animatics is a pretty neat feature if I say so myself, which uses the angle feature really well. During the episode you are watching, you can switch to see the whole thing in a storyreel (or have it start out that way). When you switch, the voice acting is still there, and it's pretty interesting to see how things were originally planned out and what didn't make it into the final animation. This is a pretty unique and interesting feature that makes a very nice addition. You'll see all the storyboards for all the episodes.

The Clerks Style is a four minute featurette that analyzes and looks at the design aspect of animating the series. It's pretty in-depth and insightful. It's narrated sorta like a commentary, and features episode clips, storyboards and conceptual art. It's a good watch, and if you enjoy the art style of the series (like myself), you'll like this featurette.

Character Development is a featurette that lasts a little over ten minutes, and basically shows how the animation and art style evolved from the start and to final product. It's also narrated, and features clips from the show, clips from the original "Clerks", early artwork and more. It discusses inspiration and how the original movie was used for developing the character designs plus has some interesting comparisons. Again, if you liked the animation and style the series had, you'll be interested in this.

The Film Festival Trailer is a scream and advertises the show (I really enjoyed it, I could definitely watch it over and over) really well, plus there's the Super Bowl TV Spot I mentioned earlier (which includes the Spring to Summer to Whatever change) that ABC played...during the Super Bowl. There are nice advertising materials.

Speaking of ads, Disney also includes four Trailers. One for the original Clerks, "Chasing Amy", Princess Mononoke (woohoo! More exposure! Too late though sorta) and the classic Beatles film "A Hard Day's Night".

Each episode also features Jay and Silent Bob Introductions. They're pretty short, but they are really funny and fun to watch. Some of them sorta mock the "success" of the cartoon.

As far as DVD-ROM features go, there's a neat script and storyboard comparison viewer, weblink and character profiles. Nice computer materials.

Things I should point out that this is a two disc set, and comes in a double case, not a single amaray case with a flap inside. Speaking of two discs, stuff is going around that some sets have two "Disc 1"s, not one of each. So make sure you get a good copy. Also, each disc has three episodes and each disc holds the same supplements, so you don't have to switch discs if you want to see one of the featurettes or advertising spots (of course, the commentary and animatics part differs to reflect the episodes being shown). Each disc also has some nicely animated menus with great colors and pictures. The menus are designed nicely and easy to navigate. That's about it... and as you can see, there's a lot of nice stuff on here to enjoy.

I haven't been anticipating a disc like this since Rushmore Criterion (one of my favorite movies ever). Thankfully, this disc delivers beyond my wildest dreams. Smith fans will love it for sure, and those who never got a chance to see the show (due to the unfairness it faced) now finally have a chance to see it. Everyone's getting something new out of this set. The picture and audio exceeded by expectations, and the supplements are plentiful and fit really well. The price point is also excellent, and considering you can get it online cheaper than thirty dollars make this one a steal. "Clerks Uncensored" is an excellent buy for animation fans, pop culture freaks and Kevin Smith lovers. This deserves a spot in your collection.

(4.5/5 - all episodes, NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(4.5/5)

(4/5)

(4.5/5, NOT an average)

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