Mallrats



The first major-studio product from Kevin Smith (of Clerks fame) is, unfortunately, a mixed bag. Fans of Smith's first outing may be initially distressed by the slow-going of the first two-thirds of the picture. The uninitiated viewers, however, should latch on to the simpler pleasures offered up.

Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee) and T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) - yes, they're named after characters from Jaws - have been dumped by their girlfriends on the same morning. Brodie drags T.S. to the local mall to calm their frustrations, where we meet an unusual assortment of characters. The rest of the film is mostly episodic, with the main question being: Can the boys win back the hearts of their fair maidens before the day is out?

Mallrats represents something of a throwback to the rowdy teen films of the late-70's (Animal House being the prime example). In that regard, not only is Smith working in a whole new system (Hollywood) but he's using a whole new set of tools as well. Consider that Clerks lacked a strong plot and was very intimate in its use of wordy humor. Mallrats takes on somewhat of a plot (a chunk of which was shed after test screenings, incidentally) and broader elements of comedy (particularly slapstick). Consider the drug and sex humor of Mallrats (reminiscent of Animal House), elements only verbally expressed in Clerks.

Unfortunately, the film suffers from being both rigid and ambitious. Smith fares extremely well with physical humor in Mallrats, but can't seem to shoehorn his trademark dialogue in. Some of it is badly written, some of it is badly performed. Only in the film's climax, centering on a live 'Truth Or Date' game show, do these elements work together seamlessly and elevate the film to a higher level of comedy.

The best surprises of the film turn out to be Clerks' holdovers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (director Smith). By toning down Jay's abraisiveness and giving the duo more or less the job of comic relief, Smith has reinvented his characters and let them steal the show. Mewes is much more animated and comprehendable than in Clerks, and Smith actually is pretty funny when given something to do, as opposed to being a stone-faced loiterer, as in Clerks. The end credits promise (as they did in Clerks) that Jay and Silent Bob will return, which should give many people something to look forward to.
 

- Derek Miner
 

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