To cut a long story short, Clerks II is essentially the same film that Clerks was except it takes place in a different location, has a couple of additions and subtractions to and from the cast, and is in color, which might be nice for audiences that hate black and white. Apart from that, from the (almost) non-existent plot, offensive jokes, lack of deep characters and minimalistic filmmaking, it’s the same.

Clerks was a major success, although it took years for its sequel to get made; this film came out twelve years after its predecessor did. I wonder how many people really wanted a sequel. I know that I didn’t. We didn’t discover much about the characters in the first film, and I wasn’t eager to revisit them or their lives. I enjoyed many of the jokes in Clerks, but trying to mine the same territory again often doesn’t work. After seeing Clerks II, I’m surprised that I enjoyed it at all, let alone as much as I did. I suppose that a good filmmaker, which Kevin Smith is, can make you enjoy his films regardless of whether or not they need to be made.

Clerks II takes place more than a decade after we first visited the infamous convenience store. Right from the outset, we’re taken back to a simpler time, when VHS tapes were still rented with regularity. The black and white stlye is back, but we’re not going to stay that way for long. When opening up the shop for the day, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) finds it on fire. Finally, some color! We eventually transition into a full color scale, although it’s still quite washed out.

It turns out, Dante’s best friend, still Randal (Jeff Anderson), left the coffee pot on and it started the fire. A year later, and both men are working at a fast food restaurant. Dante is engaged to a woman, Emma (Jennifer Schwalbach), and the two are leaving for Florida after this final day in New Jersey. We’re going to watch Dante’s last day at work, similar to how we watched Dante and Randal work for a day in Clerks. I suppose one could say that the stakes are raised this time, although really, the only major difference is that Dante’s plan isn’t going to be deviated from. Maybe.

Joining the cast this time is the pair’s manager, Becky (Rosario Dawson), a religious, juvenile and awkward coworker named Elias (Trevor Fehrman), as well as Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), who return in an even more pointless role than in the first Clerks. I get that they’re fan favorites, but it would be nice to see them given roles that actually has an impact on the plot and can’t be accomplished by anyone else.

These are all characters and we understand that they have personalities, but there isn’t any depth to any of them. They all have simple (or no) motivating factors, and apart from being discernible from one another, we don’t really get to know them. In a film that consists almost entirely of talking, this is important, but the film doesn’t deliver. Granted, we do know some things about a few of them thanks to other Kevin Smith films, but if you’re basing them solely off this one, they are not deep whatsoever.

The most important thing in a comedy is still whether or not it’s funny. I still laughed quite often with Clerks II. In fact, I think I might have found it funnier than its predecessor. At the very least, there were more laugh-out-loud moments than Clerks had. I might not have been snickering as frequently overall, but I still had a good time. The addition of Elias makes for an easy target, and that definitely helped things out; if there was ever a lull, Randal could always begin a tirade of insults directed toward Elias.

If you haven’t seen Clerks, and are unaware of what type of jokes this film will feature, I’ll give you a simple example: One character begins making a list of racial slurs … while targets of these slurs are in the room and reacting to each one of them. This is a film that wants to offend you, your friend, your donkey (that’ll make sense if you watch the movie), and everyone else who might be watching with you. There are no targets left out, and while that’s all well and good, I can see that turning off some viewers.

Even after more than a decade of experience, the actors still haven’t improved. In fact, they felt more like real actors in this film than they did in the first Clerks. They were more natural before, but felt more wooden and stiff here. Exceptions: Rosario Dawson, who hasn’t based a career on Kevin Smith films; Jason Mewes, who I liked in his role even if the character was completely superfluous; and Jason Lee, who appears in a cameo role but I enjoyed that scene. The rest all seemed stiff or simply couldn’t make me believe in their characters.

Clerks II isn’t an improvement over its predecessor, but it wasn’t really worse either. It occupies the same territory, goes about its business in the same way, and is almost the same film. It was fun, if easily forgettable, and I laughed quite a lot. That’s really all you can ask for in a comedy, even if some of the jokes make you cringe instead of laugh. Individual elements rarely work, but the project eventually comes together and makes you laugh. It needed more, but fans of Clerks will definitely want to check it out.