‘Mallrats’ is sloppy seconds for Kevin Smith, but still tastes good

'Mallrats'
Shannon Doherty and Jason Lee in 'Mallrats'
Shannon Doherty and Jason Lee in ‘Mallrats’

[rating=2]Starring: Jeremy London, Clair Forlani, Jason Lee, Shannon Doherty, Ethan Suplee, Joey Lauren Adams, Renee Humphrey, Ben Affleck, Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes
Director(s): Kevin Smith
Writer(s): Kevin Smith

My sister-in-law turned me on the Clerks. She got a video tape of it once and said it was extremely funny. So, I watched it. It was pretty good. Some good laughs. But, honestly, I thought the dialogue was inflated and unrealistic. Visually, the framing and editing were pretty bad. Still, beyond that, I enjoyed the humor and felt an understanding with the characters and their story.

Thus began my slowly evolved interest in Kevin Smith and his films. I wasn’t really aware of Mallrats when it was first released. That weekend, in fact, I went to see Get Shorty, one of my all time favorite films.

I eventually saw Mallrats on television, which is NOT the way to view this film. Much of the humor is lost. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I saw the film unedited, and at that time I still hadn’t even seen the first 20 to 30 minutes. I later heard about Chasing Amy, which I saw on the Independent Film Channel. In my opinion, it was Smith’s best film. But, that’s another story.

Recently, I finally rented Mallrats. And since I don’t bother renting anything by DVDs nowadays, I got the special collector’s edition — which doesn’t really mean much, because it’s the only version available on DVD. The “collector’s edition” contains audio commentary, deleted scenes, as well as the original beginning of the film featuring a rather stupid sequence where the governor of New Jersey is almost assassinated.

For those not familiar with Smith or Mallrats, let me fill you in a little. Smith has written and directed four films — ClerksMallratsChasing Amy, and Dogma. All exist in the same reality, dubbed the View Askewniverse, after the name of Smith’s production company, Viewaskew.

Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith are the bumbling duo, Jay and Silent Bob (respectively) in 'Mallrats'
Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith are the bumbling duo, Jay and Silent Bob (respectively) in ‘Mallrats’

All the films share one common thread, Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith), two low-life friends who share a themed-relationship with C-3PO and R2-D2 from the Star Wars films. Jay and Silent Bob either bumble their way through the story — such as in Mallrats and Dogma — or make brief appearances at key moments, such as in Clerks and Chasing Amy. They will apparently be given center stage in Smith’s fifth film, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, which is apparently to be the final chapter of the Viewaskewinverse story.

Anyway, Mallrats follows the love-lives of two New Jersey residents, T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) and Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee). Both have been dumped by their girlfriends, and struggle to understand their feelings and to find a way to win the ladies back. Quint’s problem is his girlfriend’s father, a Lex Luthor type who schemes to keep him and his daughter apart. Brodie is kept away from his girl by a bully played by Ben Affleck — this was before Good Will Hunting made him famous — whose attempting to get Brodie girlfriend, played by Shannon Doherty, into bed.

With the help of Jay and Silent Bob, who serve as this film’s slapstick comedic duo, T.S. and Brodie rig a game show in order to win back their loved ones.

Honestly, the film is not very good. The story has no structure and makes little sense. The relationships between the main characters and their girlfriends is unbelievable, and the editing of the film is pretty bad.

But, viewing this film becomes much more interesting when you understand how it was made and what was done to it before it hit the theaters. Much of this is learned through the great audio commentary provided by Smith, Affleck, Lee, Mewes, as well as Scott Mosier, Smith’s producing partner.

From bad marketing to detached producers who didn’t understand what they were making to wild reshoots and editing, the film was doomed to fail from the very beginning. When you learn what happened while making the picture, it makes it easier to understand how the film turned out the way it did.

One of the things that I admire about Smith is his honesty. On the DVD, while he doesn’t outright say that Mallrats was bad, he does admit it wasn’t very good. It’s this kind of frank discussion of ones projects that is extremely rare in Hollywood, and the movie-making business in general.

As for this DVD, I may be leaving you somewhat confused. Why would I encourage you to rent a movie that’s not very good. It’s not the movie I’m recommending here, so much as the DVD. The deleted scenes and audio commentary give you a very fascinating look at the Mallrats film that will help you understand the development that goes into making a film. It’s interesting and eye-opening.

I really enjoyed the experience.

Rated: R
Run Time: 1 hr., 34 mins.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

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