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Mallrats (1995)


Well, the long-awaited Mallrats is here at last, and sadly, the perfect twentysomething romantic comedy has still yet to be made. Writer/director Kevin Smith follows up his hilarious first film, Clerks, with this, the second in his so-called New Jersey Trilogy. It’s second not only in sequence, but a distant also-ran in quality, too.

Mallrats tells the story of two mostly-losers, T.S. (Jeremy London) and Brodie (Jason Lee), who manage to lose and regain their respective girlfriends, Brandi (Claire Forlani) and Rene (Shannen Doherty), in one long day at the mall. Along the way, the pair has a series of big adventures with cops and security guards, a game show organized by Brandi’s dad (Michael Rooker), comic book creator Stan Lee, and the returning characters of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith himself). Where all this was supposed to go, I’m not too sure. But I think it was supposed to be about relationships, and I think it was supposed to be funny.

For the most part, it’s not. Surprisingly, it’s Jason Lee (who moves into his first acting role from a career as a professional skateboarder) who has all the good lines, and those are few and far between. Gone is Smith’s witty and smartly lascivious dialogue from Clerks. Instead, the Mallrats script often sounds more like mindless smut with only a few bright moments of real farcical entertainment.

Mallrats probably wouldn’t be so painful if I didn’t know what Smith was capable of doing (and with a lot less funding, to boot). This film comes off as little more than random bits of plot and failed attempts at humor: Doherty parading about in her first appearance outside the 90210 ZIP code, Smith’s strange homage to Stan Lee, Silent Bob’s magic coat, slapstick, sex jokes, and a completely inexplicable orangutan.

I don’t know what Smith was thinking when this project came together, but let’s just hope this is just the proverbial sophomore slump. Kev, I know you can do better than this.

The new 10th Anniversary Edition DVD proves that Mallrats hasn’t aged gracefully, and Smith appears in an introduction to explain why he created an even longer version of the film, which runs over two hours in length. Smith is upfront and apologetic about the new cut, and indeed it’s much too long and most of the reinserted jokes don’t work. But if you’re dying to see how Mallrats came to be (and I realize there’s a whole subculture of you out there who do), this is a good place to start. More interesting than the film itself is footage from a reunion of the cast and crew, who discuss the making of the film and its quick demise at the box office. Other features abound on the DVD — including the original theatrical cut of the film.