Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mallrats - 1995

I've always thought that Mallrats, Kevin Smith's second film, gets an unfair bad rep. So here's the story - Kevin Smith makes Clerks. Clerks turns out to be wild runaway hit, especially considering the less-than-nothing budget it was made on. Universal offers Smith a bunch of money for his next project. Smith decides he wants to make, what is in essence, Clerks meets a Jonathan Silverman movie, and makes Mallrats. (I think they were calling it "a Porky's for the 90s.") The studio doesn't have any idea what to do with Mallrats once they get it. It's not as edgy as Clerks, nor anywhere near as indie. They float it to test audiences, and audiences aren't quite sure what to make of it either. People who don't know Smith at all don't like it because it's either too filthy or too pop culture. People who do know Smith don't like it because it isn't more of Clerks, and feels too, well, 1980s. On the whole audiences just can't seem to connect with the film. It opens. It doesn't do well. Smith goes back to Miramax, and makes Chasing Amy, which is closer to his Clerks roots and does better. (Also, is his best film end-to-end.) And Mallrats gets, well, not quite disowned, but let's just say a lot of people prefer to overlook it.

Those folks are wrong.

See, Mallrats very much is a Porky's for the 90s (although it's a little light on the nudity for that). It could've starred Jonathan Silverman (best known for Weekend At Bernie's) if he'd been age appropriate. It is a screwball suburban comedy with a rebellious streak a mile wide. It's also a lot better than people give it credit for. It's a film about that awkward transition between high school and post-high school, when people are struggling to figure themselves out, trying to figure out what they want to do and how they want to do. And it's a film that is 100% completely and totally about malls.

Mallrats is the story of two different young men, Brodie and T.S., attempting to get their relationships back on track after tumultuous snafus in the opening, and attempting to figure out what's wrong with themselves and where they were. It's got appearances from Jay & Silent Bob, features a topless psychic, has Michael Rooker playing the heavy (because Michael Rooker defaults to playing a heavy - I think he's contractually obligated to be a heavy in 80% of his movies), and features Stan Lee offering life advice.

As long as you know what you're getting into, Mallrats is a great summer afternoon film...

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