It has seemed like Kevin Smith has coasted on his unique brand of low-brow humor and cult following for much of the last two decades. While his movies have played mostly to his loyal fanbase, nothing has quite reached the levels of his early output, from Clerks to Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

There were movies thrown in there where he stretched himself a bit. Jersey Girl remains highly underrated as a father-daughter story. Zack and Miri Make a Porno was a good move outside his View Askewniverse. He also took a couple of chances with the horror movies Tusk and Red State. However, even some of his own faithful fans didn’t accept them. Clerks II was a good movie, and that is really where we are with Clerks III.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot tried to bring back the charm of Strike Back. Sadly, the jokes mostly missed in that sequel. That is really because Smith was focusing on the wrong characters. Jay and Silent Bob are fun side characters, but the heart and soul of the View Askewniverse were his clerks, Dante and Randall. Bringing the story back to the men Kevin Smith most related to meant he created his best movie since the ’90s.

Clerks III follow Dante and Randal after they left Mooby’s and returned to the Quick Stop. This time, they were owners as well as clerks. Also returning in this movie is everyone you could want who is still around. This includes Veronica, Becky, and Elias, who has a new sidekick named Blockchain. What resulted was a movie that made old-school Clerks fans smile, at least until the end. There, it had them all in tears.

The movie starts with Randal and Dante exchanging the banter that all fans are used to, but then Randal has a heart attack. Luckily, a doctor (Strangers with Candy star Amy Sedaris) saves his life, but says he needs to eat better, as does Dante, or they might not be so lucky next time. Randal has an existential crisis when he realizes he almost died without every doing anything worthwhile in his life. When Dante said he did enough to make a movie, Randal decides he will make a movie about his life.

The rest of the movie then focuses on Randal trying to make his movie, which allowed Kevin Smith to bring back past cast members, as well as shoot what looks like behind-the-scenes shots of the making of his own Clerks. While this sounds like a feel-good story, it really isn’t. Dante has not had a good life since the end of Clerks II. and while it would venture into spoiler territory to explain why, let’s just say, he still can’t catch a break in his life.

This all leads to a huge confrontation at the end of the movie, which leads to a twist that will leave Clerks fans in tears. By the time the final credits roll, the movie played out as a loving goodbye to these characters, and proof that Kevin Smith just needed to go back to the characters he based on himself so many years ago to find the magic once again.

Clerks III is a love letter to the original Clerks movie, and to all the Kevin Smith fans who stuck with him through all the years. I highly recommend this movie to all Smith’s fans, even those who left his side along his journey. This is easily Kevin Smith’s best movie in over two decades.