Kyle: Opening: Kevin Smith did not make Good Will Hunting.
Let me begin by reiterating that Kevin Smith did not write or direct Good Will Hunting, and Ben Affleck gets entirely too much shit. Honestly? Making a "Butt-Chin Affleck" joke was en vogue about 2004. Let's make a rule: if someone has already taken their lumps from animated cable shows, the deed has been done. Let well enough alone.
Point 1: Clerks is more universal a story
I maintain that Clerks is the superior movie. And a big part of why is because the central character and conflict is easier to relate to. After all, not everybody grows up with a religious imperative that affects them profoundly. And those who do don't always have a crisis of faith. And they almost never meet angels and stoners and Our Lord Alanis Morrisette.
But almost everyone can relate to Clerks because we all turn 22 years old and wonder what the hell we're doing in life. We have all worked a mindless job that makes us feel worthless. It's a more universal story, and Dante (while whiny and self-important) is a much easier protagonist to identify with.
Point 2: Basic writing issues (writing for a female protagonist, all his characters sound the same, etc.)
And I maintain that I love Kevin Smith's writing, but it isn't without flaws, particularly in his earlier films. One such flaw: lots of his characters speak the same way. In fact, male or female, educated or not, cynical or optimistic, Kevin Smith's characters usually always speak with a bemused and pop-culture infused literary flourish. With a liberal application of profanity, of course.
This is less of a problem in Clerks because the majority of characters are college-age grunge people, all from the same small town in New Jersey. It stands to reason that they would have the same vernacular, or at least the same devil-may-care attitude. In Dogma, you have thirty-something women from Chicago, a 2,000-year-old black man from Heaven, two violent, fire-and-brimstone angels who have spent eons in Wisconsin, a Mexican muse, Jason Mewes, Alan Rickman, etc. When Salma Hayek reads a Kevin Smith line, you are taken out of the story briefly. You become acutely aware that Kevin Smith (a very un-Mexican Generation-X suburban man) wrote that dialogue.
Another of these flaws in writing is the protagonist. While Dante is an easy character for Smith to write (it is essentially him, after all), Bethany is more difficult. She shares Smith's Catholic upbringing and self-doubt, but she is a different perspective for him. Namely a female perspective. Smith, along with Quentin Tarantino, has a hard time writing women. Bethany might come off flat due to Linda Fiorentino's performance, but her dialogue was pretty dry to begin with.
But I do like the movie. I like them both. They spoke to me. I think Clerks just spoke louder and way more bluntly.