DVD Review #17: Mallrats (10th Anniversary Extended Edition) (1995)

February 16, 2010 at 6:33 AM | Posted in Comedy, DVD Reviews | Leave a comment

Ben finally pays for Gigli and Daredevil.

This movie reminds me a lot of Empire Records. I don’t think there was ever any hype about Mallrats, but it’s still entwined in the world of Kevin Smith, who has fans that, shall we say, overrate him. Empire Records is an overrated cult classic, and frankly, I didn’t find anything funny about it. It’s dull and clichéd and tries too hard and the characters are unlikeable, etc. And Mallrats reminds me of the problems that a “hip” comedy can have.


The most egregious flaw is obviously that it’s just not uniquely funny. Well, perhaps that’s unfair. The way that it’s funny is somewhat unique to the Kevin Smith style of humor. But it simply isn’t funny enough often enough.

Hand-in-hand with this problem is the Smith dialog anchor. I say anchor because it generally weighs down a good premise. Smith’s dialog can be appealing, especially when you’re in that special target market which has nothing better to do that talk about Star Wars. This idea was more significant before everyone’s opinions went and got internet access. Now it’s barely a novelty. But back to the point. Smith’s relationship dialog has no place in a movie. I hate to be so general, but there it is. These little speeches don’t work for a comedy. The characters are unremarkable dicks. The conversations don’t belong in a drama either. They certainly don’t belong in a romantic comedy. If they do, only once or twice, not repeatedly. It’s these serious essays about love and fucking that drag down a film which had a chance at some good laughs and memorable scenes.

Where memorable scenes and dialog are concerned, Mallrats has a lot of stand-out moments. Despite its flaws, it’s very quotable. Very much like Caddyshack, although not as overrated. Caddyshack is actually a terrible film. The story is rubbish. The characters are dull. The acting is awful. That caddy kid? Thoroughly unlikeable. Don’t even get me started on Rodney Dangerfield. And who cares about golf? But the movie features a great Bill Murray character, and a lot of quotable lines. So, ergo, it must be great.

Among the Smith canon, Mallrats has plenty of scenes and moments with stick in your mind. But the actual excution of these is barely worth rewatching. The film itself isn’t done well. It’s sort of like the only performance of a great play, but from an inexperienced acting company. It is worth the knowledge of that play, but not the experience. The gem of the picture is, as nearly always, Jay and Silent Bob. They are always funny. I could easily avoid ever calling myself a fan of them. But I couldn’t avoid admitting they’re just funny. Maybe it’s the over the top comic delivery, compared to the bored acting of everyone else, at least in this picture and Clerks. Or maybe it’s just the genuine unique experience of meeting these far out characters. Either way, they’re the shit. And that’s why Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back will always be Smith’s greatest comedic achievement. That movie is pure screwball comedy antics which don’t get sidetracked by points of view or personal catharsis.

“The Version That Should Never Have Existed”

Side B has an eleven minute introduction to the extended version, but no further (or newer) commentary.

There’s actually some serious Brian DePalma shit going on in the first reinstated scene, where the camera pans down from a rooftop, to a scene with Michael Rooker, and then after three minutes, without breaking, pans across the yard and up to another rooftop. Amazing! And certainly indicative of the film’s failure. Too much of it was shot like this, in one take, with no coverage or edits. It makes tightening the movie up a chore, and the editor who made the theatrical cut should surely be appreciated after watching this “full” version. There’s funny stuff in the twelve minute intro (of the movie), but it’s not cut for comedy, nor could it be.

The extra plot shit that actually helps the ridiculous premise make any sense, while risking a careless approach to pacing, does serve to make the story feel more like a Kevin Smith movie. Of course, so does the slow pacing. While drawing a little too much from Eighties teen comedy ideas, it still plays out very much like Clerks. Unspeakable dialogue and all.

Mallrats in this version has the effect of watching one of those movies on IFC that you’ve never heard of, which is so low budget that it’s mostly just dialogue. And it’s passable for relieving extreme, and I mean EXTREME, boredom as long as you don’t know it’s called Mallrats, considering they don’t get to the mall for half an hour. The rest of the film is as you’d expect. Worse. Because it’s even longer. Which was the general problem in the first place. Not in duration but in each scene, and every sentence. This cut wasn’t as boring as I expected, but it’s still of trivial interest.

The movie isn’t completely without merit, mind you. It has a kickass Drew Struzan poster, Stan Lee, and it ends with a monkey and a Weezer song. But the chapter stops should be programmed to skip to all the funny parts. ‘Nuff said.

The “Laserdisc” commentary presented here, though missing whatever visual component was on the previous release, is a considerable effort consisting mostly of Smith, with random outbursts from Ben Affleck, Jason Lee, and the guys who weren’t in the movie. It’s at least guaranteed to hold your attention better than the film itself, even with comments repeated from the various bonus materials elsewhere on the disc.

Extras include some bullshit vintage interviews from the set where everyone says how nice everything is and how great everyone else is and how Kevin “knows what he’s doing,” and how great the script and characters are. Eh.

Also on side A is a smartass, ten-minute Q&A with Kevin Smith about the DVD, which is funnier than the movie. Score! Eight minutes of outtakes, exist here.

Among the longer features are a twenty minute look back at the film through interviews, a twenty minute look back at, uh, the film through… interviews, but with more clips, and (on side B) a 50 minute live Q and A with the cast and crew and shit.

A music video and gallery are also something that happened, bitches.

Easter eggs on side A include an outtake from one of the look-backs. There’s also a hilarious semi-fake commercial for the California Secret Stash store, as well as a… fake Easter egg, which is a commercial for the east coast Secret Stash.

Side B has a couple of Easter eggs of the cast doing multiple takes of lines. It’s almost as interesting as that sentence was.

I wouldn’t exactly trade my firstborn to have this in my DVD collection, but it’s a welcome change to hear people admit a movie sucked, and explain why.

Film Connections:
DVD Review #28: Clerks (10th Anniversary Edition) (1993)

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