Mallrats

Even if you don’t like his films, you have to admire director Kevin Smith’s Hollywood sensibilities. As budgets skyrocket towards the heavens, Smith is able to make entertaining and engaging films for less than most mainstream film’s advertising budgets. His first film, “Clerks,” cost nothing to make. When Gramercy Pictures offered him $6 million to write and direct “Mallrats,” Smith asked them why.


He said that he could make the film for half that, and did. Who has ever heard of a filmmaker actually giving money back to the studio? Then again, Smith isn’t your typical hired gun. He’s a maverick, someone with a unique vision that demands he maintain complete control. After the money gesture, Gramercy Pictures and Universal, the company that owned Gramercy, left Smith alone to capture that vision. Sure, there were still I’s to be dotted and T’s to be crossed by studio personnel, but for the most part, Smith and his cast and crew were left to their own devices to make a teen comedy that the studio was hailing as “A Smart Porky’s.” The only studio interference Smith ran into was that they wanted more breasts and less graphic language. Smith compromised, but only minimally. Instead, he delivered a film that had more to say than the average teenager could comprehend. Sure, the slacker generation would be won over by the film’s slapstick humor and gross out gags, but Smith is smarter than that. His dialogue is multi-layered. On the surface it sounds so simple, but dig a little deeper and you find a wit that can’t be beat. The premise of “Mallrats” is so paper thin, yet Smith makes it much more than it is. His characters say and do interesting things, and even though they’re trapped in a mall for the entirety of the film, they’re not mall clones. Jason Lee, in his first feature, is outstanding as Brodie, a real slacker whose girlfriend Rene (Shannon Doherty) has just left him. Jeremy London co-stars as T.S., who accompanies Brodie to the mall in order to make-up with his girlfriend, Brandi (Claire Forlani). While Brodie chases down Rene and tries to stop her from making a fool of herself with a mall jerk (Ben Affleck), T.S. tires to stop Brandi from participating in her father’s “Dating Game” rip-off being held in the mall. It’s all pretty clear cut, but nothing Smith’s characters do is simple. The guys enlist the assistance of ultimate slackers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) to save the day, and the duo’s efforts provide the film with most of its slapstick humor. Jay and Silent Bob are the Greek Chorus of Smith films, characters who show up in every one of his films with something noble to say. I like these characters, especially in “Chasing Amy,” where Silent Bob finally gets to speak. Smith fleshes out the background characters with some interesting choices, including former “Three’s Company” star Priscilla Barnes as a topless fortune teller with three nipples, and Michael Rooker as Brandi’s anal retentive father, a small-time television executive. There’s lots and fun as all of the characters come together for a wild day in the mall. The cast is on the money, especially Lee, whose on-screen presence is natural and inviting. Ben Affleck makes a great heavy, while Claire Forlani shines. The DVD allows fans of the film to see the complete, unedited version that includes an in-depth, complicated 20 minute opening that was chopped from the film. Subsequent references to the opening were also trimmed. Now you can enjoy the film the way it was meant to be seen.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind

Anamorphic enhanced 1.85:1 widescreen digital transfer delivers the goods. Outstanding color and saturation, strong, independent blacks and flattering flesh tones survive the transfer with no compression artifacts visible. Clean negative provides for pure whites and shadows, plus excellent depth of field and attention to detail. Cheerful, colorful images look sharp and vivid.

HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf

Playful 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack fills the room with catchy tunes, realistic ambient noise, and an outstanding dialogue mix that makes it easy to hear every witty word. Stereo definition is accurate, while the front to rear spatial split is honest and effective. Basses are strong without being menacing, while the middle and high ends (especially the high ends) are crystal clear, with no audible hiss or distortion.

ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor

Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.

COORDINATION: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak

At last, the DVD Kevin Smith fans have been waiting for (okay, they’ve also been waiting for special editions of “Clerks,” now available from Miramax Home Video, and “Chasing Amy,” coming soon). The Universal DVD allows Smith and his cronies the opportunity to present the film the way it was originally intended to be seen. Here’s the lowdown:

check.gif (406 bytes) First and foremost is the over one-hour of deleted footage. Smith and “Mallrats” historian Vincent Pereira introduce the excised footage, which includes the film’s original 20 minute intro that was completely excised from the film. Once the intro was removed, that meant trimming all references to it, forcing Smith to cut the film from it’s original 2 hour 20 minutes version to the current 1 hour 36 minute version in release. How this was accomplished makes for engaging viewing. “Mallrats” originally had more meat on its bones, and even though the anorexic version is still entertaining, the film makes much more sense with this additional footage.

check.gif (406 bytes) There is also a feature-length commentary with Smith, Pereira, stars Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes and producer Scott Mosier. Even though their conversation is animated in its audio form, the DVD provides you with the opportunity to occasionally pop up the commentators in a box on the screen. I’ve always wanted to see how they record such an extensive audio commentary (featuring six people), and thanks to this wonderful feature, now I can. This feature can be activated every time a “Mallrats” logo appears on the bottom of the screen. The conversation is lively, with the guys sharing much more information than one normally finds on these audio tracks. Several cast members discuss who they slept with in the film. Even though the guys are plugging the DVD, it is obvious that they are watching the laserdisc version. They even make reference to this when the laserdisc needs to be changed to side 2. I noticed something unusual when I watched the visual commentary. Jason Mewes, who plays Jay in the film, can’t seem to keep his hands off Jason Lee, who is seated next to him. His excuse is to use the ash tray, but Lee isn’t smoking during the taping, so why didn’t Mewes simply move the ashtray in front of him instead of putting his arms around Lee every four or five minutes? Hmmm…..

check.gif (406 bytes) There’s also a featurette where Smith and the cast and crew wax eloquent about the experience, including the studio’s hesitancy to hire Jason Mewes. They wanted Seth Green, who went on to star in “Austin Powers” and television’s “Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.” Lots of background information here.

check.gif (406 bytes) A healthy selection of production photographs, including stills and behind-the-scenes shots.

check.gif (406 bytes) A soundtrack presentation, and a music of “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Goops. Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) are featured in this little black and white exercise in silliness.

check.gif (406 bytes) The film’s original theatrical trailer, plus cast and crew bios and filmographies.

check.gif (406 bytes) Handsome menus that are both hip and colorful, with scene access menus featuring clips from the film.

check.gif (406 bytes) Web links to Universal Studios Home Video’s Internet site.

check.gif (406 bytes) Finally, a hidden Easter Egg (it’s in the eyes of the robot on one of the menus…find it yourself) that is actually a hilarious attack on hidden Easter Eggs by Smith and Pereira.

PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal

Hey, while you’re hanging out at the mall, why not pick up a copy of this hilarious comedy?

VITALS: $34.98/Rated R/96 Minutes/Color/18 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#20019

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: MALLRATS-COLLECTOR’S EDITION

BIRTH DATE: 1995

HMO: Universal Studios Home Video



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