In 10 Words or Less
Didn't like it the first time? Try it again.
Loves: Mallrats, Jason Lee
Likes: Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck
Dislikes: The cover art
Hates: Unnecessary double-dipping
The Story So Far...
Universal released a Collector's Edition DVD of Mallrats in July of 1999. The disc is currently out of print. DVDTalk has a review of the first DVD here.
Following the mega-success that was the low-budget indie film Clerks, Kevin Smith could have likely done just about any film he wanted to as long as the characters swore liberally. What he wanted to do was write and direct a movie about a guy who hangs around in a mall. Scratch that...a comic-book geek who hangs around in a mall. He also wanted to bring back his cult slacker heroes, Jay and Silent Bob.
Unfortunately, what Smith wanted to do didn't jive with what audiences wanted to see, and a black mark was placed on his record for all to see. He would rebound with the classic Chasing Amy, the sacre-delicious Dogma and the rest of his empire, but Mallrats will, in most film-goers' eyes, forever be his Heaven's Gate.
In your humble reviewer's opinion, it's an unfair stance that is taken against Smith's sophomore film, mainly because it wasn't Clerks. Instead of going to the well again, Smith took his gift for on-screen gab and unleashed it on the teen comedy genre. The film is essentially the story of T.S. (Jeremy London, "Party of Five"), a moronic student with the vocabulary of Noam Chomsky, who messed things up with his girlfriend Brandi (Claire Forlani, Meet Joe Black) and her insane father (Michael Rooker, Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer). The tale is told during a day spent palling around with his slovenly friend Brodie (Jason Lee, "My Name is Earl") at Brodie's home away from home: the mall. Brodie has lady troubles of his own, having been dumped by Rene (Shannon Doherty, "Charmed").
Over the course of the day, T.S. and Brodie run into a host of friends and enemies, including the aforementioned Jay and Silent Bob, a young sex researcher, the womanizing Ben Affleck and a topless Joey Lauren Adams. There are some sitcom-level plots that float around the film, including a game-show finale and an appearance by Stan Lee, but the majority of the movie is about these two guys, and the people they know, having conversations. Since this is Smith's strength as a writer, it's easily the best part of the movie. And if this had been the only thing going on, this film might have been hailed as the coming of Generation X's Woody Allen. But the goofy plot points make the film a silly experience.
Though silly, it's certainly not a bad experience. Mallrats is probably the most accessible of Smith's films, and in my opinion the flat-out funniest. Minute for minute, I laugh harder at Mallrats than any other Smith film. Much of the credit has to go to Jason Lee, who delivers the kind of performance that will be mimicked in college dorms for decades to come. His very natural and very funny character gives the film a center the audience can latch onto (as T.S. certainly wasn't doing it) and makes the already funny dialogue that much better.
For the 10th anniversary of the film, Smith and his producer Scott Mosier took the original script and some newly restored footage and put together a new, longer version of the film. The new opening (seen in the extras of the first DVD) drags badly, but once past that, the story moves pretty smoothly, putting back some of the trimmed moments and adding some bits from the TV edit of the movie.
In evaluating a second cut of a cult classic, my main criteria was, would this version be the one I watch when I grab for Mallrats. The answer would be no, thanks in part to the molasses-like opening scene. The original jumps right in and sets the pace for a high-energy comedy. This new one feels more like a wacky plot set-up at the beginning.
The effort that went into the cover art on this re-release is a bit disappointing. Whereas the original disc kept to the feel of the theatrical poster, putting the art in comic-book format, this disc straightens and crops the gorgeous Drew Struzan art, and changes the coloring behind the logo to a garish yellow. It just doesn't work. They should have either A) follow the theme of Clerks X or called in the Adult Swim team. A single chocolate-covered pretzel, slightly melted, under the Mallrats would have been nice.
Once you get past the cover, and open the standard keepcase, you'll find the flipper disc that holds two versions of the film, and a bunch of extras. The main menu on the first side is animated and anamorphic widescreen, with a comic book theme that's nicely done, and offers options to select scenes, view bonus features, adjust languages and play the film. The second side is the same, only static. Languages available for the original film include English 5.1, and French and Spanish 2.0, while the extended cut has only a English 5.1 mix. Subtitles come in English, Spanish and French and there is no closed captioning. The scene selection menus feature animated previews and titles for each scene.
The anamorphic widescreen video looks very nice, with a transfer that's as good as this movie has ever looked. The level of detail is good, and there's an acceptable amount of grain, though edge enhancement is obvious in many places. Overall, the film could be sharper, but its not awful. The color is very bright and appropriate for a movie set in a mall, while there's just a bit of dirt in the film. Comparing it to the earlier disc, this one just looks sharper and with more natural color, especially in skintones.
The anniversary edition of the movie is also done in anamorphic widescreen, but because it was culled together from less-than-optimal sources, the film looks slightly less impressive than the theatrical cut. Jump cuts and occasional misaligned frames are a problem, but in the grand scheme, it's easy on the eyes.
Both cuts of Mallrats have a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, which has some interesting surround effects, and some good rock music, but the majority of the film is dialogue-driven. The dialogue sounds crisp and clear, which is important for any Kevin Smith film.
The first side of the disc opens with a selection of on-set interviews from way back in 1995. These range from Forlani praising Smith like he's the second coming of Truffaut, to Rooker being amused by the kids he was working with. It's pretty standard studio-produced promotional material.
After getting through that bit of fluff, the real entertainment begins in the form of a nine-minute Q&A with Smith. Responding to serious questions about DVD, which are shown as text screens, Smith is his usual funny self, displaying the self-deprecating wit that has earned him his fan base. This serves as a nice companion piece to the DVD apology on the Chasing Amy DVD.
Eight minutes of outtakes, presented in letterboxed workprint format, are new to this version also, and are cute to watch. There's nothing laugh out loud, but Lee and Mewes draw at least a smile whenever they are on-screen. These are followed by a featurette carried over from the first DVD, "View Askew's Look Back at Mallrats." It's a decent blend of interviews with the principle players in the movie, full of honest thoughts about a film that failed at the box office, but found its audience on the shelves at Blockbuster.
Unfortunately, this featurette pales in comparison when placed alongside the more intriguing "The Erection of an Epic - The Making of Mallrats." Most of the cast and main crew sit down for interviews, including Affleck and Stan Lee (Doherty, Forlani and Adams are among the missing), and with the perspective 10 years provides, they take a proper view of the film. Jason Lee has some of the best things to say, as this film was his big break.
In a great touch, the producers strayed outside of the usual suspects in collecting thoughts about Mallrats. They got film critics Kenneth Turan and Janet Maslin, both of whom praised Clerks and savaged Mallrats, to talk about the movie, as well as "Batman" scribe Paul Dini, who shares the "fanboy world" perspective. Though they only provide a few moments each, their contributions help round out the piece, making it a proper retrospective.
A landmark commentary from Smith, Affleck, Lee, Mewes, Scott Mosier and Vincent Pereira was the best part of the original DVD, and it returns here, though it's missing the entertaining visual portion. This may be the best overall commentary ever produced for DVD, as it's informative, hilarious and an easy listen. Consider what a huge star Affleck is, and the cusp of stardom that Lee sits upon, and then listen to them act like the regular joes they were/are when hanging with their friends. Besides the lack of the visual commentary, the only disappointment here is the lack of a commentary on the new cut of the film. With so many changes, to at least have Smith's thoughts on it would have been very interesting.
The first side of the disc wraps up with a trio of features ported over from the first disc: a slideshow of somewhat blurry production photos, the Smith-directed Jay and Silent Bob video for The Goops' "Build Me Up Buttercup" (which features very bad sound) and the film's full-frame theatrical trailer.
The second side has two extras, starting with "Mallrats: The Reunion." 50 minutes in length, this Q&A features Smith, Jason Lee, Mewes, Mosier, Ethan Suplee, Renee Humphreys, Jeremy London, DP Dave Klein and producer Jim Jacks. If you've seen "An Evening with Kevin Smith" you know what to expect, and there are some interesting moments here, including a girl who says she's from France and rambles somewhat incoherently to everyone's enjoyment. London's appearance is something of a surprise (as well as a roadblock) as he's never been a View Askew guy and has been criticized on previous discs.
There's also a short introduction to the extended cut of the film, with Smith and Mosier. They crack some jokes and talk about the process of re-cutting the movie, making for the proper set-up to the new version.
The only features missing from the original disc are the deleted scenes (from which the new cut was cobbled together), and a handful of lame text pieces. But what's really missing is the TV edit of the film, which includes some truly ridiculous dubbing. That would have been worth the price of admission.
On the Hunt
There's at least three easter eggs, including the infamous one found on the original DVD. They aren't too hard to find. One is a must-see for Lee and Mewes fans.
The Bottom Line
Mallrats is easily the least-respected film of Kevin Smith's canon, but it may be the most purely funny film the writer/director has made...if you get into it. The problem is, it's a teen sex comedy as written by David Mamet. So you have a movie with a story that doesn't match the method, turning off potential audiences. But if you get it, it works to make you laugh.
This 10th anniversary DVD of Mallrats is OK in terms of the extras, but the only real reason fans will want to check it out is the new cut of the film. Whether you'd want to replace your original DVD depends on what you think of this new movie, while those waiting to pick it up for the first time can do so without concern. Because the film is so good, I recommend picking it up if you've never done so, but it's not enough of an improvement to absolutely demand an upgrade.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.