Clerks II is yet another attempt by Kevin Smith to bring to a close the View Askewniverse he launched over a decade before with his low-budget comic gem Clerks. It is difficult not to think of this as a retreat after the failure of Jersey Girl to break out of that fictional world, but the fact is this type of crude yet occasionally socially perceptive dialogue is what Smith does at his best. The film offers a handful of monologues, most all of them by Jeff Anderson as über-caustic loser Randal, that dazzle. An uproarious sequence where Randal begins to suspect a beloved relative might be racist, and a sequence in which Randal's teenage Christian co-worker Elias (Trevor Fehrman) explains about the troll living inside his girlfriend that prevents them from having sex showcase how Smith uses vulgarity to get at deeper issues in the culture. That said, much of the film feels like Smith running away from any ambitions whatsoever. He has most certainly been here and done this before, and the conclusion of the film offers little hope that Smith wants to challenge himself or his diminishing group of devoted loyalists. This leaves a fan asking, "Where can he go from here?" That question might be less depressing if it wasn't the same thought that one took from his previous two films, Jersey Girl and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Clerks II is much better than those previous efforts, but it is hard to shake the feeling that Smith wants to diminish his and other people's expectations of himself just as his characters do. A lack of ambition is a prison for any artist, so one hopes Smith recognizes the irony of staging his climactic scene in a prison cell.