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It is kind of weird that Kevin Smith has stumbled upon a couple of really in the moment eras, right? Clerks took a dive into the malaise of the 1990s youth trying to reconcile this with the daunting future ahead. Then you have Mallrats, which takes the same general molds of same youth, and puts them against a backdrop that is going through decay or worse both in an evolving economy and the Covid restrictions. And here we are! Was Kevin Smith a great clairvoyant, knowing the world to come and ensuring that we got a chance to see these eras before they disappeared? I'd imagine he'd be the first to tell you that's not the case, but it's a thing that's stayed in my head as I took yet another peek at Mallrats.
Like Clerks, Smith wrote and directed this film, and also appears as Silent Bob to Jason Mewes' Jay, and serve as the jocular palette cleanser. The big focus is on TS (Jeremy London, Party of Five) and Brodie (Jason Lee, Almost Famous), two guys whose girlfriends have just broken up with them. So they go to the mall to regroup, and try to figure out a way to win back Brandi (Claire Forlani, Meet Joe Black) and Rene (Shannen Doherty, Heathers), the significant others of TS and Brodie, respectively.
With Mallrats, I'm still trying to understand the reason that so many slammed it. The hubbub surrounding its cinematic underachievement compared to the success of Clerks seemed to have some sort of violent disappointment that Smith's next film did not wow people. Smith appeared to be in a position where he wanted to continue writing what he knew about, and explored relationships a little bit further in his second film (and even more into his following film Chasing Amy). And it overlooks the examination of the film within its own merits, not the merits of other films.
And you know what? It's kind of fun! This was the film that introduced Jason Lee to many of us, gave Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy) a wider platform to show off his work, and gave Doherty a bit of a broader place to show off her talents. Was the story a little formulaic at times? Sure, but given how the film was evolving even in the first act, I found it fairly easy to enjoy the ride.
I think it is fine to be in a position where Mallrats was unfairly judged but by no means is an undisputed cinematic gem. At the end of the day it is kind of an average movie, but saying that it is horrible and a stain on moviemaking is hyperbolic and unfair to a guy who was searching for his artistic voice, and should not be too impugned for still going through it in his second film. Come on sheeple!The Blu-ray:
Smith and cinematographer Dave Klein supervised the restoration efforts of the theatrical and extended cuts of the film, and they look very good. Not having the extended version in hand anyone I'm going from memory, but the detail is something that I was taken with, as say, license plates on cars look clear with sharp colors, hair strands look like they could appear in a recent-ish release, the soft colors in clothing from most of the performers looks fine and black levels are satisfactory. All in all some nice work by Arrow.The Audio:
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track comes off fine, with some low-end presence in the songs and channel panning in Silent Bob's cable work to take out the security guard. Dialogue is consistent and well-balanced, though there is no real immersion to speak of. The source material does not amaze, and the overall result replicates workably on this new soundtrack.Extras:
Arrow has grabbed most of the extras from the 2005 release and a couple from the 2000 one. But the big fish that they landed for this set is the TV cut of the film, (1:25:31), which includes a new introduction by Smith (4:24), where he talks about the differences in the cut compared to the theatrical and extended ones, including an explanation of Mewes' non-voiceover voiceover, which should be heard to be believed. The extended cut (2:01:51) is the one that has been around in prior releases of the film, and has Smith's 2005 introduction (11:00), which includes the explanation for it and the reception on it since then, and the restoration work put into the extended cut. Along with dailies for the film (1:59:35), two stills galleries and an EPK for the film's soundtrack on set with Smith and producer Scott Mosier (4:02). All of this is on Disc Two of the package.
Everything else is on Disc One, including the commentary with Smith, Mosier, Lee, Mewes, Ben Affleck and archivist Vincent Pereira, which recounts production detail along with Smith, and includes scrapped ideas and other things from the joy of the mid 1990s. Pagers going off! Zippos while everyone smokes! A mention of laserdiscs! I really enjoyed the track when I listened to it back in the day, but it seems a little too light now. Moving on, "My Mallrat Memories" (29:58) is another new interview with Smith where he talks about his personal recollections of things, and how things evolved from script to film, and location & casting choices of the time, and includes some more detail on the production. "Mr. Mallrat" (12:27) is a look at the life of producer Jim Jacks, who passed away several years ago, and Smith shares some funny and poignant thoughts on Jacks, his life and the impact Smith felt with him. "Blunt Talk" (9:59) is another new interview, this time by Mewes, where he talks about his work on the film, while "Hollywood of the North" (10:13) looks at the production by members of the Minnesota- based crew, with interviews set to animation, including a funny anecdote about Doherty's dog, and differences in shooting between Minnesota and Canada. "When We Were Punks" (6:08) is a new interview with Klein as he talks about his evolution in his craft, working on the film and with Smith on this film and others and his thoughts on Smith as a director and person. Deleted scenes (1:02:48) are next, along with outtakes and behind the scenes footage (8:02), complete with a typo of the word "Blooopers"! "Erection of an Epic" (22:09) is the 2005 retrospective on the film's production and reception, and the cast and crew talk about the film and story, some of the film's flaws and its position in 2005. It's a nice look at the film even now. Smith's Q&A is next (9:01), along with a music video (3:38) and the film's trailer (2:23).Apropos of nothing, with these new extras, Arrow's made content production clever in the Covid era and it should be commended. Final Thoughts:
Kevin Smith did ‘90s teens well, he did malls well, and he did DVD productions well, and this effort continues to be impressive 15 years later. Arrow has taken an already good base, and added on it with a solid restoration and put a solid effort in to show you why you can and should double-dip (I almost forgot to mention the booklet inside the case and poster replica of Jay's mall plans!), and it's a gem for your video collection.