Mallrats review by Tom Blain

Used to be a fav, now fallen

On the outside, Mallrats seems like a B-Movie teen melodrama, with too small a budget for Freddie Prinze Jr, but just big enough for Shannon Doherty. Two friends T.S Quint (Jeremy London) and Brodie Bruce(Jason Lee) get dumped by their girlfriends, Brandi Svenning (Claire Forlani) Rene Moiser (Doherty) on the same morning and attempt to console each other while wasting time at the neighborhood mall. Along the way they encounter a rabble of characters including two stoners, Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and director Kevin Smith) hanging out at a pet shop, a junior Masters & Johnson, and a male clothing store worker Shannon Hamilton (Ben Affleck, pre-Armageddon) with a dirty little bedroom habit.

One thing that drags this movie way down is horrible acting in key roles. To be honest, I dont expect Oscar winning performances from a Kevin Smith movie. His first movie, Clerks was funded by a lemonade stand and Bazooka Joe wrapper mail-ins. He got local-yocals from the neighborhood to play multiple parts, so there is an element of camp involved. For his second installment, he is shooting in color and on a grander set then just a single convenience store (moving up from small store to mega-mall; the true Jersey dream). With this upgrade we would expect the actors to upgrade as well. Claire Forlani seems to lack delivery when she is forced to tell a joke. The opening scene where she and London breakup is almost enough to make you shutoff the movie altogether. While we are on the subject, Jeremy London might be the worst actor I have seen in 10 years. He looks uncomfortable when he is talking. He looks even more uncomfortable when he is NOT talking. In fact watch him when he is on camera while Jason Lee is talking. Lees jokes are flowing and effortless. Londons reaction to these jokes is what I would expect from a summer camp troop skit. London is just another pretty face from the Fox /Spelling teen dramas.

Maybe the miscues of Jeremy London could have been avoided by better direction. Kevin Smith himself revels in the world of slacker and apparently that laziness carries over into his direction. Maybe I am being harsh (and maybe money didnt permit a Kubrickian array of shots), but had he focused off of London more when he wasnt talking (i.e. reducing his average camera time to just a couple of seconds per shot) he wouldnt look so bad. But maybe also Smith is going for the campy comic book look with his movie. That seems to be common thread throughout most of his films. It looks as though he is writing movies as though they are independent comics like Bluntman and Chronic.

Regardless, with Mallrats, Smith still seemed to be learning on the job direction wise. At least he still had his superb quote it one more time writing style to hold the story together. This has always been the glue of Kevin Smith films. Gen X-ers will walk away from each film with a brain full of dirty Jay quotes that are funny the third through thirteenth viewing. Despite its cheesy teen-melodrama breakup intro Mallrats is less the exception of the rule and more a glowing example of the rule. The introduction of Jason Lee as the lazy-ass wit-meister is reason #1 this movie works. He rattles of the Kevin Smith one-liners and pop-theories like a 90s Aristotle. His Truth or Date sequence at the end is the type of thing that put me on the floor doubled over and red-faced repeatedly. Smiths clever slice of life writing is what pushes Mallrats out of the Shes All That category and into another category for a different audience.

Back in my college days, this movie used to be a late night staple along with Ramen noodles. Jokes were repeated, quotes became common vocabulary, and VHS cassettes were worn out to the point where they needed to be replaced. It had been about 2 years since I had seen Mallrats, however, and the glaring problems that I once ignored had now bothered me. Maybe in the last few years, I have distanced myself a bit more from the Mallrat generation. Regardless, I still enjoyed myself. My sense of humor is still childish enough to laugh at a stink palm or Jay picking on peaceful Silent Bob. Mallrats is still one of the more enjoyable Kevin Smith flicks and is a must for any Jersey-series fan.




7 out of 10 Jackasses
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