Universal // 1995 // 123 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // November 4th, 2005
They're not there to shop. They're not there to work. They're just there.
After the success of Clerks, Kevin Smith and the View Askew gang headed out to suburban Minnesota and filmed a movie about shopping malls and the people who inhabit them. And to their credit, Universal did manage to put together a very good Collector's Edition DVD several years ago. In the rush to mark 10 years of fun, does this new edition stack up?
The story focuses on two couples that are breaking (or have recently broken) up. The first is Brodie (Jason Lee, Chasing Amy), a comic book fan who likes to play video hockey and hang out at the mall. His girlfriend Rene (Shannen Doherty, Charmed) wants more from the relationship and decides to leave him. Brodie's friend T.S. (Jeremy London, Gods and Generals) dates Brandi (Claire Forlani, Green Street Hooligans), much to his father's (Michael Rooker, The 6th Day) disapproval. T.S. is troubled when Brandi decides to appear on a "Dating Game" style show at the mall for her father, which he thinks is a sign that their relationship is over. So both guys have to win back the girls over the course of a day at the mall. Everyone's favorite drug dealers, Jay and Silent Bob, are back and have traded the Quick-Stop for the mall this time and plan to help Brodie and T.S. reunite with their women and live happily ever after.
After a decade of scorn and abuse, Smith wears this badge on his filmography with pride, and it's not as bad a movie as others have made it out to be. As Brodie, Lee is engaging and pretty funny in parts, but London really came off as a woman in this film. Perhaps I've got some sort of predilection toward wishing that the Party of Five gang would fail hard, but I was just not impressed with his performance here. Doherty is tolerable and Forlani appears as a sweetheart, while Rooker as the very bald protective father is funny to see.
And of course, what is a Smith film without some witty dialogue sautéed with pop culture tidbits? Batman, The Empire Strikes Back, and Apocalypse Now are all part of Mallrats in one form or another. And the question pops up as to whether or not Superman could procreate with Wonder Woman. Maybe as a result of all of this, comic book icon Stan Lee makes a cameo appearance in the film too, as part of an in-store signing at one of the stores. And some of Smith's other semi-childish stuff makes it into this version too, be it "stinkpalming" or statutory rape, all the things that make life worth living.
All in all, Mallrats is entertaining without being too graphic, and fun without being too compelling. Is it somewhat of a letdown after such a memorable first film? Probably, but maybe it's the cause of having too much too soon. While Smith has mostly returned to his independent, low-key origins, his humor has stayed the same, and for better or worse, that's what it is, those who like his humor like Mallrats. Those who don't, probably don't care a second DVD has been released to commemorate this. The deleted scenes that were on the Collector's Edition from a few years back have been seamlessly integrated into a longer cut of the film. Remembering those scenes makes you realize just how long the opening scenes were, and were thankfully cut out for time reasons (who would have watched a two hour film about farting during well, you know?).
Well, in comparing this anniversary edition to the original Collector's Edition, fans will almost immediately notice that the commentary that was on the previous version is retained, and that's a good thing. Smith, Ben Affleck (Chasing Amy), Lee, Mewes, producer Scott Mosier, and historian Vincent Pereira provide the same yucks that they did before, and Smith seems to be the closest on topic, but for whatever reason, I just didn't like this commentary as much I did before. There was just not a whole lot there. The music video, trailer, and production photos all appear to be retreads also. There's a featurette on the film titled View Askew's Look Back at Mallrats that appears to be old as well, but can't be confirmed. It certainly has a lot of dated interview material on it, with interviews from Smith, Mosier, Affleck, and producer Jim Jacks. Smith goes into candid detail on how the production went, including some of the barrels he was put over by the studio. There's a new making of piece with new interviews from everyone except the female leads that also has some good information on it too. There was a cast reunion where almost everyone participated, and the cast stuck around for a 50 minute Q&A which features some recycled information from the other supplemental material, as well as questions from a wide variety of sources. Some people try to be too funny for the room and fall hard (an Almost Famous reference directed to Jason Lee gets almost no response), but there's a French girl who was born in Texas initially that captures the panel's attention. It's hard to describe, except that well, it's hard to describe. Along with an eight minute outtake reel, Smith provides a separate Q&A for 10 minutes that covers his thoughts on the film and the video following that's occurred since. I almost expected to see what Smith would do if he were named Ms. America by the time I was done watching this, but he is tongue in cheek about the reason for such an extensive DVD: "A DVD like this is awesome for a shut-in."
At the end of the day, Lee, while a funny guy, just doesn't have the muscle to carry the film, and London looks like he'd cry if you stared at him long enough. And Doherty was still the villain from Beverly Hills, 90210, so to paraphrase Mosier, who would watch a film with two people you've never heard of, and another that you'd hate? Exactly.
Mallrats may not be the most compelling Kevin Smith film that's been made, and it may not be the funniest. It may be a combination of a studio getting too involved in the creative process, and for naïve filmmakers who did not have any close insiders to shelter them from the nonsense they'd be forced to tolerate during the movie. After pouring over this new edition, one should realize that these factors, combined with the proverbial "sophomore jinx" helped doom this film. And on its own, it's not Clerks, but what is?
The filmmakers are acquitted for the work they put into the production. The studio is found guilty of almost ruining a then-burgeoning talent in Smith. Thankfully, Smith has returned to where his bread is buttered, and fans all around should rejoice. This anniversary disc rehashes some old material, but the new stuff is pretty good and is worth picking up for any View Askew enthusiast.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Director/Cast Commentary
* Original Cast Interviews
* Director's Q&A
* "View Askew's Look Back at Mallrats"
* "The Making of Mallrats"
* Music Video
* Cast Q&A and Screening
* View Askew
* News Askew