The Back of a Volkswagen?

by Alan Rapp on July 17, 2006

in Uncategorized

Mallrats was a flop.  Kevin Smith’s first attempt at a mainstream film didn’t do well in theaters, but it has found a nice following on DVD.  The story of slackers at a mall has some genuinely funny moments including where Jay and Silent Bob beat-up the Easter Bunny, the stink palm, and the most entertaining dating show I’ve ever seen.  And even more than that – it introduced pro-skateboarder Jason Lee to the View Askew audience and the world.

Mallrats
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“Say, would you like a chocolate covered pretzel?”

Mallrats is Kevin Smith’s first attempt to try and make a mainstream film, to reach a wider audience, but still keep his own humor and style – with mixed results.  It would be the first, though not last, film where Smith’s sensiblities would clash with studio and marketing “experts.” 

Still, for fans of Smith and the View Askew Universe there are many moments worth savoring: the discussion about the impossiblity of Lois Lane and Superman’s physical relationship, the humorous cousin Walter stories, the great comic book themed title sequence, a sailboat that almost everyone can see, Walt Flannigan and Steve-Dave, and Stan Lee!

T.S. (Jeremy London) and Brodie (Jason Lee) are having a bad day when both their girlfriends, for different reasons, decide to break-up with them.  With nothing better to do, the two make the journey to the Eden Prairie Mall where our adventure commences.

Brodie finds his ex Rene (Shannen Doherty) in the arms of a thuggish salesman from the mall’s fashionable men’s store (Ben Affleck) who enjoys having sex with recently dumped women in an extremely uncomfortable place.  T.S. finds his ex-girlfriend’s father (Michael Rooker) putting up a stage for his dating show which T.S.‘s recent ex, Brandy (Clarie Forlani), will compete on.

T.S. and Brodie band together with local mall hooligans Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) to stop the show from happening and to win back both of their girlfriends.

Kevin Smith’s first “studio” film is something of a surprise and mild disappointment.  The stuido wanted a “smart Porky’s” but wasn’t sure how it was to be done.  Still, Smith’s trademark dialogue comes through as does his love for comics (the film even sports a cameo appearance by Marvel great Stan Lee).

The problems arise with the casting of Dougherty and London who both seem to struggle with the long diatribe monologue style of Smith’s universe.  Doughterty does her best to come out mostly unscathed, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for London, who at times seems overwhelmed and lost.  Forlani looks dreamlike,  beautiful, (and maybe a little stoned),  but troubled as the script’s main purpose for her is to walk around sad and unhappy.

The film also earns a black mark for breaking “Our Title is So Cool Rule” where characters can’t help but invoke the title during the film, seemingly only to remind the audience what film they are watching – twice.  For shame.

Depiste these problems there are quite a few things to enjoy including the discovery of Jason Lee who owns every frame of film he’s in throughout the film.  Smith has often remarked that Ben Affleck is the best with his dialogue, but I’d argue Lee stands high and above anyone else for that crown.  There’s also nice supporting performances by Joey Lauren Adams and Renee Humphrey as other “Mallrats.”

Not his best work by any means, but Mallrats is an important step for Smith as a filmmaker.  The teaming of Jason Lee, Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams, and the box office failure of the film would lead Smith to go back and make a smaller, smarter, and more personal picture – Chasing Amy

Standing on it’s own there’s much to enjoy – especially if you like listening to DVD’s with audio commentary, as the group comes back to reminisce and laughingly talk about this bomb in sometimes disparaging, but always loving, terms. 

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