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STUDIO: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 96/123 Minutes
• Feature commentary
• Cast interviews
• Q&A with Kevin Smith
• View Askew’s Look Back at Mallrats
• The Erection of an Epic featurette
• Feature commentary w/ Kevin Smith, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, Ben Affleck, Scott Mosier, Vincent Pereira
• Music Video for "Build Me Up Buttercup"Mallrats: The Reunion
• Theatrical Trailer
• Production Photos
Mallrats is Kevin Smith’s sophomore slump.
You know it; I know it; even my annoying friends back in high school knew it. After
the independent promise of Clerks — specifically the success
disproportionate to that film’s tiny budget — Smith was given more money to
work with, access to a greater depth of acting talent, and the other frills
associate with studio production. Given such freedom, Smith played it safe and
essentially remade his successful first film. The result is this mostly
lifeless, critically panned, and cult-expanding piece of minor cinema history.
morning, two young men find themselves summarily dumped. T.S. (Jeremy London of
Heaven) had been planning to take his girlfriend Brandi (Claire Forlani
Joe Black and, more importantly, Antitrust) down to
which he was planning to propose to her. Yes, T.S. is the one who espouses some
of the traditional values of relationships, the hopeful guy who, like Dante in Clerks
is the center of a story which mostly doesn’t involve him. Instead of setting
out for a trip through the theme parks with his best girl at his side, T.S.
makes a simple and boneheaded mistake, prompting Brandi to kick him to the
No, honey. Don’t look at the camera.
to his friend Brodie (Jason Lee, The Incredibles), who has just
received an eloquent "Dear John" letter, delivered as his
ex-girlfriend climbed unassisted out of his basement window. T.S. is
despondent, Brodie somewhat more unfazed. Brodie is the callow and confident
jerk of a friend who makes it his goal to cheer up both himself and T.S. His
plan for doing so has exactly one step: go to the mall.
mall, they run into a colorful (at least when it comes to metaphors) crew of
misfits and have zany madcap adventures, all toward the end goal of reuniting
with their girlfriends. The specifics of the plot in between the first act and
the third aren’t really necessary for a discussion of the film, because it’s a
linear progression. The epiphanies are reached early on in the conversations
between Brodie and T.S., and the remainder of the film is devoted to
maneuvering the characters into proximity so than declare these epiphanies to
the primary departure between Clerks and Mallrats, and,
unfortunately, it’s a movement downhill. Where Clerks had a loose
progression for Dante’s character, it did nevertheless sketch a full arc, one
that was immediately recognizable and not yet cliché in mass media. Mallrats
grabs a hackneyed plot, reveals its final destination in the first few minutes,
and then meanders for eighty minutes.
This is a
review for Mallrats, not Clerks, but I’m going to bring in a
few more comparisons, because I think it’s worthwhile to look at how Mallrats‘
position as a follow-up comments on its own structure. Clerks is set in a
convenience store; Mallrats is set in a mall. Clerks is about one day in the lives
of the characters; Mallrats is the same. Clerks is about relationships as a
casualty of inattention; Mallrats is about relationships as a
casualty of attrition. Clerks is full of irreverent
references to those pop culture phenomena that Kevin Smith chooses to,
narcissistically, declare his love for; so is . . . well, everything that Smith
The last words that Kevin Smith will hear will be, "Meep meep, bub."
being that there’s a sense of boredom to Mallrats, a sense of contemptuous
familiarity. It’s not just in the mind of the audience, either, but in the
lackluster filmmaking. Smith, as a director and as a writer, comes alive during
those sections of throwaway gags and Batman references, but when dealing with
exposition or character development it’s as if he’s not even trying.
positive side, the abovementioned gags are among the better of Smith’s career.
They range in sophistication from potty humor (my personal favorite) to obscure
sight gags. The cameos are decent, as well, featuring Stan Lee as a sage and
fatherly figure (whose sweetly-told memories forecast the best parts of Chasing
Amy) and Priscilla Barnes as a topless, three-nippled mystic. Smith
does go overboard on the references to a few of his favorite things — at times
the film feels like a game of "Spot the Homage" — but the majority
of these sequences, when played for laughs, are effective.
enjoyment of this film hinges almost entirely on your tolerance for that kind
of geekdom, though, because without those fanboy elements, there’s barely a
skeleton of a film left to stand. The numerous references, both in dialogue and
in structure, to cinema and comic book history, are can be distancing to
audiences not already familiar with the source material, and Smith makes no
effort to pander to the uninitiated. The repetitive, predictable plot meshes
poorly with the film’s humor, but taken as separate elements, the humor, at
least, is successful.
made a solid step in no particular direction with Mallrats and ended up
with an amusing film that makes the leap to cult status because it appeals to a
pre-existing fanbase. I’m not sure if that’s good planning or just cheap
6 out of 10
"When you’ve got a thing to say / Say it with feeling /
When you’ve got a thing to share / Share it with love."
anamorphic widescreen. The clarity of the transfer in the theatrical cut is
decent except for the colors. All the visuals have a drab quality that makes
the film feel even more dated than its ten years (and, ironically, looks more
dated than the black-and-white Clerks). The mall the film was shot
at doesn’t have much in the way of decoration, either, and the budget for set
dressing was apparently blown on making customized facades for empty shops,
such as "Carpet Munchers".
Smith has never been a daring director, visually, and he certainly didn’t take
any chances in this film. It features a strictly "filmed theater"
style of camera work, with not a lot of variation during scenes.
extended cut, the latter gripe is the same, but the former is a little more
prevalent. The restored footage isn’t perfectly matched to the existing, and
the result is uneven.
5 out of 10
digital 2.0 surround. The mix is generally decent, except for Claire Forlani’s
dialogue, and the occasional overbearing musical cue. Forlani has kind of a
bedroom acting mode, which makes you think she’s either about to go to sleep or
is smoldering with quiet passion; I’m not sure which. Either way, she mumbles
through a lot of her lines early in the film.
gets so taken with his musical homages that, from time-to-time, they become too
obvious. One example is Silent Bob’s Batman homage. The music isn’t
mastered quite right, and plays a few notches louder than it ought to.
6 out of 10
"Dude in the center: You’re out of order."
highlight of the extras on this disc is the special extended edition. It’s not
quite up to the caliber of other recent DVD-released recuts, because there is
some frame-skipping and a few color-balance issues. Also, as Kevin Smith says
in his introduction, it kind of sucks. The reason for its existence is that Mallrats
is the only film that Smith didn’t edit himself. The studio hired the able Paul
Dixon for that job. When this tenth anniversary of the film came around, Smith
decided to see if he could do any better than
about twenty minutes into the task and then got bored, because Dixon had done
the best he could, given the minimal coverage that Smith had shot for most
end up cutting in almost thirty minutes of additional footage, and the result
is a self-admitted mess. According to producer Scott Mosier, the extended cut
is almost identical to the shooting script. If anything, Smith is a writer who
needs to revise more, not take a step backward like this. The extended cut is
bloated with needless speeches and exposition. If anything, it’s a great
testament to writers and directors of the great benefits of cutting until you
included on the disc are cast interviews recorded during principal photography.
These are quick marketing blurbs, actors introducing their characters, and
Kevin Smith sharing his incredibly positive outlook for the future of the film.
with this is a brief Q&A with Smith prompted by the release of this disc.
He responds to the general criticism of Mallrats, and is his usual, charming
self, warning the audience outright that he made this film "with one hand
on the computer and the other under the desk," because he’s so in love
with his own work. Deflecting the impact of criticism doesn’t reduce the truth
of the criticism, but it does make Smith a fun guy to watch and listen to.
commentary track reinforces this. Smith is kind of a laid-back motormouth. He
rarely sounds excited, but he never shuts up. He is joined on the track by Jason
Lee, Jason Mewes, Ben Affleck, Scott Mosier and Vincent Pereira. The track is
fun to listen to, but doesn’t expose any more new information on the film. A
few of the side jokes are pointed out, but, lacking the speaker subtitle
feature of The Lord of the Rings, it sometimes gets hard to figure out who
is saying what. It’s for aural voyeurs, I guess, those people who like to
eavesdrop on the opinions of stars.
two making-of featurettes included, one dubbed a "retrospective"
which compiles interviews with the cast and crew from the few years directly
after Mallrats distribution. The other is "The Erection of an
Epic: The Making of Mallrats" and covers roughly the same territory,
incorporating some more recent interviews and reminiscences.
The shirt twins were never supposed to meet,
such was the sworn oath of the League of Bald Dwarfs.
out the informative bonuses, there’s also a filmed panel session with the cast
and selected crew. Kevin Smith answers the brunt of the questions, but everyone
involved is amiable enough and don’t seem to mind. The Mallrats fans don’t come
up with any probing questions, but the bits of trivia and arcana they do
question Smith on are at least fun, if not interesting, and the feature is of a
also an outtake reel and a set of production photographs, which offer exactly
what you expect them to. The real gem of these features is the video for The
Goops’ "Build Me Up Buttercup" that Smith directed, starring Jay and
Silent Bob. Smith is in fine Harpo form for this little ditty.
quality isn’t always heavenly, the number of bonus features is plenty enough to
satisfy fans and overwhelm casual viewers.
8.5 out of 10
great artwork, practically iconic because of its comic cover inspiration. The
title splashed across the top and the painted diorama of characters instantly
put one in mind of schlock cinema, which must be an intentional parallel. The
problem with this artwork is that it is so similar to that of the previous DVD
release of Mallrats. The only thing to distinguish this version from that
is a tweak of the background color and the banner at the top that informs the
potential buyer that this is an extended release.
can see why they wouldn’t want to mess with a good thing.
8 out of 10
Overall: 7 out of 10