Though being a fan of Kevin Smith’s work, it’s only in recent months that I’ve actual found myself enjoying his second feature, Mallrats (1995). This feature follows the antics of two young men, TS (Jeremy London) and Brodie (Jason Lee), as they both find themselves recently dumped by their girlfriends. As a way to try and cheer up TS, Brodie decides that the best place to take him to to hang out at their local mall; much to TS’s dismay, his now ex-girlfriend’s father is airing a live performance of a dating show in the mall that day, and TS needs to find a way to win his girl’s heart back before the show starts.
The story is pretty simplistic, yet easily fills a 2 hour run time without becoming boring. As I mentioned, I used to not enjoy this feature; it felt like we were just watching these guys do a bunch of things that didn’t really matter, the antagonist felt too cartoon-ish, and (spoiler) I couldn’t understand why the girls got back with TS and Brodie at the end. However, these days I can appreciate it a lot more – even in the areas that I used to dislike. Like what? Well, the ‘cartoon-ish’ feel of some of the characters and scenes is intentional, as Brodie is a massive comic book fan, several comic book refenrces are made through the run time, and we even have a cameo from Stan Lee (his first acting job – long before his face appeared in any Marvel adaptations). This also explains why everything works out so well for the protagonists at the end – because it wraps up like the end of a comic book.
I think it’s interesting how each of Kevin Smith’s films are portrayed and directed in different styles each time. Not only does it really prove himself as a film-maker (who honestly deserves a lot more recognition than he gets – though having a large fanbase), but it also means you’re in for a different treat with each of his films – like a serving tray filled with lots of tasters of different chocolates or cheeses. So, what kind of style did he aim for with Mallrats? Well, this feature was meant to be showcased as a ‘teen comedy’, like the Breakfast Club (1985) of the View Askewniverse. I think this shows when watching with friends (particularly if you’re a teenage or young adult audience), because it’s something you can enjoy from the realistic* and quote-able dialogue, as well as it being something you can enjoy for a couple hours, knowing that it won’t be that heavy. It’s just fun.
(*When it comes to dialogue, ‘realistic’ is dependable, as I feel related to some of the scenes in this film based on what they’re saying because it’s similar to the kinds of subjects my friends and I would get into conversation about; but just because my friends and I can place ourselves in the place of the characters, it doesn’t mean you will, though you may just enjoy the script in the context of the feature.)
This is one of the things that I really like about this film, as it’s very fun to watch – alone or with company, in that ‘it’s a little stupid, but I like it’ kind of way. I think the best way to describe this flick is through a quote from my friend: “It’s like the junk food of Kevin Smith movies.” He’s right – because as you’re watching it, you know there’s better out there, but you enjoy it enough to go back time after time.
While I personally prefer Clerks (1994), I think it’s very clear that Smith stepped up his game as a director in this extension of his own fictional universe. My main reason for this statement is down to something as simple as pacing. Sure, part of the pacing of a film is dependant on the script at hand, and some could easily argue that the pacing in his first film was a little slow at times because of the script simply being a bunch of random and odd happenings to someone over the course of a day; while it’s a fair arguement, I don’t entirely agree, as you could use that same logic to The Big Lebowski (1998), which doesn’t have any pacing issues. I think the reason for better pacing in this feature compared to Clerks is that Smith had the chance to learn from any mistakes he felt he made between the making of each films. The obvious other difference between films is the larger budget put into his second feature (as well as his later features), but I’ve already talked about this in my comparison review between both Clerks movies.
All in all, this is worth checking out if you want something simple and fun to watch some evening, alone or with friends. (But, then again, I think that about all of Smith’s movies, so I’m going to be a little biased as a fan of his.)