Mallrats (1995) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: R for language, sexuality, crude humor, drug content, and nudity
Running Time: 94 min.

Cast: Jason Lee, Jeremy London, Shannen Doherty, Claire Forlani, Michael Rooker, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Renee Humphrey, Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Ethan Suplee, Stan Lee, Priscilla Barnes
Director: Kevin Smith
Screenplay: Kevin Smith
Review published October 9, 2000

Although Clerks was filmed with a much smaller budget and no real actors to speak of, Mallrats is the film that shows Kevin Smith the most at a loss on how to make his movie.  Real studio money gives Smith more toys to play with from a technical standpoint, but he appears to be a little overwhelmed on how best to utilize them.  While his film has the funny, raunchy moments and unique insights his previous effort, he struggles mightily to maintain comedic momentum due to his inability to handle his actors properly, write three-dimensional supporting characters, injects zany, old-fashioned slapstick that hasn't been funny in decades, and master basic editing and presentation. 

Perhaps we should be grateful Smith suffered the slings and arrows from the critics for this misfire, as he seemed to take Chasing Amy much more seriously, and consequently made a much better film.  Mallrats remains a flawed curiosity for most, although some of Smith's biggest fans still herald it as one of his better works as a conceptual writer.

Brodie (Lee, Kissing a Fool) and T.S. (London, The Babysitter) get dumped by their girlfriends on the same morning and decide to get their minds off of their being jilted by heading out to hang out at the local mall.  They run into friends, make a few enemies, and even attempt to get back with their girlfriends, who also happen to be in the mall at the same time.

Perhaps the biggest of Mallrats' many problems comes from some misguided choices in casting, plagued with awkwardly delivered acting by some of the more prominent actors.  Jeremy London, who acts throughout the film with an annoying mix of Brendan Fraser and Joey Lawrence, just can't deliver his lines with true conviction, leaving most jokes involving him fizzling as a result.  Shannen Doherty ("Beverly Hills, 90210") is barely utilized for her conniving strengths, Ben Affleck (Good Will Hunting, Phantoms) plays an unconvincing and unfunny tough guy, and Claire Forlani (Meet Joe Black, Mystery Men) has trouble keeping her American accent with the right inflections. 

Most of the supporting cast perform even worse -- when you start noticing that even the extras seem out of place, there is an overwhelming awkwardness that ruins the comic timing in most scenes.  The film is saved somewhat from the abyss by Jason Lee, here in his first big role, with his energetic take as Brodie (although he does often overact in a very grating fashion), and some occasional funny lines penned by Kevin Smith that manage to give the film a level of amusement, even if the best lines are delivered without the necessary finesse.   However, any hopes for Mallrats to be passably good are dashed with a messy, slapdash game show finale that drives the hit-and-miss film down into realm of embarrassingly bad filmmaking.

Mallrats is recommended only for the true blue fans of Kevin Smith, who'll enjoy the characters and won't care that it's sloppily made fun.  It's arguably the worst of Smith's films (Dogma comes close), but somehow it still has some comedic merit thanks to the interesting premise and the wacky characters.  Watch it with reservations, and know there are only about 20 minutes of good moments amid the plethora of bad. 

-- The 10th Anniversary Extended Cut DVD adds about 30 minutes of scenes that were previously deleted.  These very unfunny scenes add almost nothing to the experience except make it longer.  For die-hard Mallrats fanatics only.

Qwipster's rating:

2000, 2010 Vince Leo