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Dante’s Inferno: What Would You Do for The Flying Car?

A Clerks Short Film

It’s that time in everyone’s lives again. Where we all come together and return to the lives of Dante and Randal: our favorite Quick Stop employees. And when I say everyone’s, it’s more of an encompassing generalization than specific to every person. From the 1994 original, the animated series, The Flying Car, Clerks II, and through the newly-released trilogy-capper, Kevin Smith’s Clerks series has found a way to speak some honest truths.

Dante and Randal rest at the counter looking at a customer.

Hold up a minute! What is this Flying Car; I can hear you asking. I’m glad you asked!

After Kevin Smith figuratively and literally closed the book on the View Askewniverse with 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Smith dipped back into the lives of Dante and Randal with a six-minute short film that debuted on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in early 2002. A handful of years before Dante and Randal took their particular set of skills to Mooby’s with Clerks II, Dante and Randal found themselves in a car ride for the ages.

Doing anything to kill the boredom of sitting in a traffic jam, Randal, as is always the case, dispenses with a pop culture reference to kick off a conversation. In this instance, the lack of maneuverability he finds himself in has Randal yearning for the futuristic utopia of The Jetsons. Feeling lied to by the Hanna/Barbara creations about the lack of flying cars, Randal knocks television for incessant lies. Dante, rational as always, retorts with not banking futuristic “what-if” glimpses and scenarios proposed by what you find on the boob tube. 

Hooking Dante with his want of flying cars, Randal muses that others are working on such a vehicle. Dante, of course, could care less. After using John F. Kennedy and his promise of landing a man on the moon in ten years, Randal dispenses on Kennedy’s “sack” at such a proposal. Laying the foundation, Randal continues to pass the time by proposing a hypothetical question to Dante: If a German scientist comes to you with such a fanciful vehicle, what would you trade for the flying car? If you know Clerks or the character of Randal Graves, a question is never simple.

While Dante and Randal sit idly in their vehicle, Randal gets more in-depth with his hypothetical scenario. Not content with a normalized trade, Randal’s proposal includes the loss of an appendage, the usage of medical drugs, and what the scientist (and his friends) would do to Dante. As the scenario gets further detailed and demented, Dante’s frustration grows over whether the scientist’s demands for the Flying Car are worth the hassle. What would Dante do for the Flying Car? I don’t dare ruin what Kevin Smith crafts, but rest assured, it fits well for the characters of Dante and Randal.

Much has been said, good and bad, about Kevin Smith’s films over the years. After initially concluding the View Askewniverse, it felt as though those characters we know and love were to be left behind. And there’s no shame in that as you venture out and create new worlds and characters.

While Kevin Smith has frequently returned to the View Askewniverse, each drop-in comes at a different point in his life and career. What 2006’s Clerks II became is a result of that period in Smith’s career; the same goes for Clerks III. Especially Clerks III.

The most intriguing aspect of The Flying Car doesn’t come from Smith’s wonderfully-crafted dialogue or spot-on performances; the time period of Smith’s career and where we find Dante and Randal. The Flying Car, in a way, is saying goodbye to the second iteration of Dante and Randal.

The first time we meet the titular clerks, Kevin Smith is figuring out how to finance his first film, hiring local actors, and unaware of the character longevity he’s creating. The second generation is slightly sillier with the combination of Clerks: The Animated Series, their brief cameo in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and this short film.

Since this is a short-form comedy, The Flying Car is not a plot-heavy film. What I enjoy most about The Flying Car is that it feels like we are peeking in on Dante and Randal during a random moment in their lives. There isn’t a big revelation of story beats we need to hit; this is Dante and Randal sitting in traffic. Kevin Smith’s naturalistic dialogue flows well through Dante and Randal’s mouths. You almost feel that the next traffic jam you’re in, you can look over and see these two having this conversation.

While in the overall career of Kevin Smith, The Flying Car is minor, sitting with Dante and Randal as they rattle on about a fictional flying car brings a smile to my face. Not just for Kevin Smith’s ingenious, if expected, dialogue, but for dropping in on classic characters one last time before they evolved into the next versions we revisit in Clerks II. And while I enjoy the later iterations of Dante and Randal, The Flying Car is a six-minute time capsule showcasing the writing talent of Kevin Smith and the acting prowess of actors Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson in prime, hilarious form.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a lifelong cinephile and has had an admiration with film for as long as he can remember. When he's not checking out the most recent theatrical release, viewing a movie on one of a 1,000,000,000 streaming services or picking up the latest physical media disc, he's trying and failing to make it in Hollywood as a screenwriter. He also has a weird fascination with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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