Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More Mallrats Means More Than Just More Money For View Askew

The Good: Funny, makes a lot more sense with new cut, good extras, preservation of original
The Bad: Still weak in some areas, Packaging; back tells nothing about movie! Simplified resolutions.
The Basics: Set in a mall and populated by weird, interesting, funny characters, Mallrats always gave the impression of being a "little movie that could," that simply didn't. Now it works!

Mallrats and the Malltrats Tenth Anniversary Edition are essentially two movies, so my review is actually two reviews for the price of one. Mallrats was the second film produced by View Askew productions that was directed by Kevin Smith and produced by Scott Mosier. Following on the success of Clerks, the pair took their production company to Universal for their first big studio production. The result was a color film with a higher standard of production and recognizable actors. At the same time, it's still a movie loaded with "dick and fart jokes," as Kevin Smith says frequently in the extras.

Mallrats - Take 1 (the theatrical cut, the review that properly belongs here) as it was released in the theaters and originally on DVD is a romp around a mall wherein two characters lament their day of being single. T.S. Quint is dumped by Brandi Svenning when Quint's callous pre-film comments lead to a fellow student's death. In another part of town, Brodie is being dumped by his girlfriend for being an insensitive, comic book-loving lout. To lament their singlehood, both young men end up at the local mall where they discover Svenning's father's gameshow set being built. Their day then becomes an oscillation between attempts to destroy the set (utilizing the nefarious Jay and Silent Bob) and attempting to reconcile with their respective girlfriends.

In the process of telling this story, Kevin Smith's world is fleshed out with intriguing characters. Jay and Silent Bob return from Clerks, Ben Affleck appears as a Shannon a man with an obscure sexual fetish, and Ethan Suplee sort of takes on a role from Clerks (see the commentary for that). In Mallrats, we get Brodie, one of Smith's most interesting and developed characters. He's intelligent, acerbic and witty.

More than anything, Mallrats serves to create an intriguing location. Just as the Quick Stop in Clerks is a well-defined place and time, the Eden Prarie Mall in Mallrats becomes a distinct location populated by bizarre individuals fresh out of Kevin Smith's warped humor and imagination.

The acting is one of the highlights to this effect; Jason Lee is excellent at Brodie. Lee has excellent timing, especially of facial expressions in response to statements made in his vicinity. Shannon Dougherty is quite good as Brodie's girlfriend, Rene. She has a softer cast to her than the tabloids would paint the actress out to have. Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith play Jay and Silent Bob well, making them into something more than the pointless dancing idiots they appear as in Clerks.

While Clerks often receives great praise and Mallrats receives great criticism, I think the critics got it wrong. Clerks has charm in that it makes a lot of messages. Mallrats develops characters well. And it's funny. If you read my reviews, often you find I have some problem with comedies in that they fail to hold up over multiple viewings. Mallrats remains funny after several watchings.

And it is funny. Brodie has some lines that are flat out hilarious. And more than that, Mallrats illustrates perfectly Kevin Smith's ability to sustain a joke. Recurring jokes pop up throughout this film. They work well.

Outside a simple resolution, that is how simplistically the female characters resolve actions and emotions with their men, this film works very well as a character study as two young men explore loss and redemption.

For his part, T.S. has a lot of airtime. He's attempting to resolve things with Brandi and he often seems lackluster and depressed. Jeremy London, who plays T.S., works well in those ways. He plays down T.S. and that portrays the character well.

In short, Mallrats is a fun film, but in its original incarnation, it does not live up to its potential. Seen in clips of deleted scenes is a much more sensible film that works better. The viewer of the original Mallrats on DVD feels somewhat cheated. Like Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, it seems Mallrats was cut from its original vision to be something it truly is not. In this case, we get to the mall much quicker.

But what it is is a movie with dialog that is fast and natural, the characters are interesting and funny. It's worth your time, if for nothing else than to get you into Kevin Smith's universe.

Review 2 - Mallrats: 10th Anniversary Edition - For the tenth anniversary, Smith and Mosier recut the film with the previously deleted footage in as well as alternate takes and footage that appeared in the television version so a new movie is created. Fortunately, the original is also on the disc, as are all of the bonus features from the original DVD release, making this the comprehensive Mallrats collection.

The tenth anniversary recut of Mallrats, then, tells the story of two couples that have recently broken up. Following a disastrous night at the Governor's Ball, T.S. Quint is dumped by his girlfriend, Brandi. Brandi's father is trying desperately to make it as a television producer and has arranged for a pilot of a dating gameshow to be produced at the local mall. Brandi commits to being the bachelorette on the show, much to Quint's disgust.

At the same time, Brody, a slacker who was dating Rene finds himself dumped by her. Tired of his prioritizing video games over her, Rene leaves Brody. Brody, accompanied by Quint, heads to the mall for solace. Not to buy things, not to work, just to enjoy the environment. This is the story of the day two slackers try to win back their girlfriends by ruining a gameshow at the mall.

It is a silly plot and one too common in movies geared toward people in their late teens, early twenties. The truth is, though, Smith's new version (which was his original shooting script, apparently) makes everything make a great deal more sense. Instead of a nebulous fight filled with exposition, we see Brandi and Quint go through a situation that is both ridiculous and dangerous and get torn apart as a result.

Brody's story remains virtually unchanged and with good reason. His character's travails made perfect sense in the original, so there was nothing significant that needed alteration. His tumultuous relationship with Rene continues as if this was not a recut.

Despite Kevin Smith's warning at the beginning of the recut that declares this is the version that should never have been, the new version of Mallrats makes a lot more sense while preserving some of the best humor of the original film. Gone is the opening monologue that barely relates to the scene that opens the movie, gone are some of the awkward lines that were needed to fill the gaps left by the changed beginning (like the guy in the parking lot who gets punched by Quint - in the original - for asking if he used to date Brandi) and the use of alternate cuts makes the viewer feel like they are watching a completely different movie.

What hasn't changed in terms of the plot is the Jay and Silent Bob subplot, the Willam Black plot and most of Trish's part. Fans of Jay and Silent Bob need not worry, your boys are unharmed.

More significantly, the quality of the acting has not changed. Because this is a recut, not a redo, the acting is what it was. And a lot of credit must go to actor Jason Lee. This was his first motion picture and he does outstanding, clearly establishing himself with an acting presence that foreshadows his vibrant career. In fact, Lee is given a rather difficult acting assignment; play a slacker without appearing to play a slacker and without underselling the part. Lee mixes the right amount of verbal ambition and bad posture to replicate the archetypal . . . well, mall rat.

And outside using the characters for exposition (we never do quite find out why Brody knows Trish, but Quint does not), the new footage makes the characters make a great deal more sense. We get the impression that Brandi is actually quite intelligent and working toward something and that she feels her future is jeopardized by Quint's shenanigans. T.S. comes across more like a guy who actually cares about Brandi than he did in the original cut. And Rene works rather well as a young woman who is just plain fed up.

The new cut features extra DVD bonuses, like the Clerks X cut, the new Mallrats features brand new commentary, an introduction to the new cut by Kevin Smith and a pretty cool "Mallrats Tenth Anniversary Question and Answer Session" which is a real treat for any fan to watch. Ultimately the viewer and fan of View Askew movies is granted an all-around tighter movie that makes it worth viewing, even for people who did not quite like the original. And for those who did enjoy the first cut, it's here too!

For other movies by Kevin Smith, please visit my reviews of:
Chasing Amy
Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back
Jersey Girl
Clerks II
Zack And Miri Make A Porno
Cop Out
Red State


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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