Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kevin Smith retrospective - MALLRATS (1995) - I love the smell of commerce in the morning!

After the dream-come-true distribution deal for CLERKS, Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier were given a bigger (remember the base level) budget and professional actors for their full colour follow-up MALLRATS. The basic concept was the same - a day in the life of two best friends talking about sex, bumping into old high school friends, and getting up to shenanigans. Both have gone to the local mall to try and win back their respective girlfriends who are tired of their slacker antics. 

There are two problems with MALLRATS. First, it's just not as tightly scripted as CLERKS - both in terms of the individual scenes of dialogue and in terms of the way in which the scenes stitch together to form the film. Without the constant on-the-button black humour the ludicrous events in MALLRATS seem, well, just ludicrous. There are no earthy insights to pin them down to reality or to make us care. The two lead characters - Brandi and T.S. are earnest but dull and there isn't a rich deck of minor characters to distract us from that. Finally there are no deep emotional insights - no sense of catharsis - as at the end of CLERKS. CLERKS was crude but also clever. MALLRATS is just a low-rent teen sex-comedy.

The second big problem with MALLRATS is that the acting is almost universally terrible. Admittedly, the acting sucked in CLERKS but that just made it seem more charming. On the other hand, you don't shell out money to see professional actors - Shannen Doherty, Claire Forlani, Jeremy London - three out of the four lead actors - uttering lines with all the feeling of my coffee table. 

For all that, I still watch MALLRATS, though less often than CLERKS. I watch it mainly for Jason Lee's performance as Brodie, the smart-talking Randal Graves-esque side-kick to the hero, T.S. and for the occasional flashes of brilliance that were so evident for the full run-time of CLERKS. And let's face it, even a bad Kevin Smith movie is still funnier and more original than most generic teen comedies out there.

T.S. Quint: How is it that I go from the verge of hot Floridian sex with Brandi to man of steel coital debates with you in the food court? 
Brodie: Cookie stand isn't part of the food court. 
T.S. Quint: Of course it is. 
Brodie: The food court is downstairs. The cookie stand is upstairs. It not like we're talking quantum physics here. 
T.S. Quint: The cookie stands counts as an eatery, eateries are part of the food court. 
Brodie: Bullshit. Eateries that operate within the designated square downstairs count as food court. Anything outside, of said designated sqaure, counts as an autonomous unit for mid-mall snacking.  

MALLRATS went on release in 1995 and 1996 and is available on DVD but without the fanfare, whistles and bells of the CLERKS ten year anniversary re-release.

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