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MALLRATS
10th Anniversary Extended Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Shannen Doherty, Jeremy London, Jason Lee, Ben Affleck Claire Forlani
Director:  Kevin Smith
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Universal
Features:  See Review
Length:  96 Minutes (Extended Cut 123 Minutes)
Release Date:  September 20, 2005

"FLY, FAT ASS, FLY!!"

Film ***

Once upon a time, a young filmmaker with a vision but no money sold his comic book collection, filled out a few of those credit card vouchers we all get in the mail, and used the cash to make a little film called Clerks. It went on to garner attention at major film festivals, terrific reviews, and a cult following from many who thought it was one of the funniest movies ever. The future seemed bright for this young writer and director, as many couldn't wait to see what he would come up with next now that he had made a name for himself.

In chapter two, he made a little movie that flopped called Mallrats. The critics mostly hated it, and moviegoers stayed away in droves. After earning a measly $400,000 opening weekend, it was clear that the film was DOA. Of course, in chapter three, he goes on to make Chasing Amy, which was a financial and critical success, but that's a story for another time...

So the question must be asked...why did Kevin Smith's Mallrats fail? It's hysterically funny. It's filled with the same kind of biting, fast observations on life and culture that made the script for Clerks so memorable. True, ultimately it didn't amount to much, story wise or character wise, but many other comedies have ventured into those kinds of waters and succeeded, without being nearly as funny as this one.

It's hard to believe it's been ten years...I was actually there on opening night; me, my brother-in-law, and about six other people.  To commemorate the occasion, Smith has dipped back into the well and re-assembled a cut of the film that runs about a half hour longer...as he explains in the introduction, Mallrats was the only movie he and collaborator Scott Mosier never edited themselves.  Until now.

He calls this cut "the version that shouldn't have been", and he was probably right.  Longer isn't necessarily better.  There is an extended opening involving a mistaken assassination attempt that isn't terribly funny, and becomes a bit of a bore as a running reference.  Certain scenes that seemed snappy and funny are now extended and seem a little tiresome.  A few alternate takes are used here and there for the astute.  Overall, this cut seems to exist merely as an experimental curiosity piece, and one can see why Smith doesn't endorse it as a new official version.

Fortunately for fans, the shorter theatrical cut is still here, and that's the one that really counts.  The story centers on two slackers, T. S. and Brodie (London and Lee), who spend the day at the mall after their girlfriends dump them. And that's about it. But it leaves the door wide open for many hysterical observations (personal favorite: "why buy the cow when you can get the sex for free?") and an array of funny, if not particularly deep, characters, such as the guy who camps out in front of the Magic Eye art store, but can never see the 3D image (I have that problem myself, by the way). And some terrifically conceived slapstick as the two irreverent juveniles, Jay and Silent Bob (Mewes and Smith), plan to wreak havoc on a stage that's being constructed in the mall-they do it Wile. E. Coyote style, complete with blueprints, gadgets, and everything.

Kevin Smith's true gift is that he knows how to make us laugh. As such, Mallrats delivers generously. Some critics responded favorably. Many did not. So the question still lingers...what went wrong?

Perhaps it was too much too soon. Though Clerks found a loyal audience, mainstream movie goers may not have been prepared for Kevin Smith's low key and acerbic style of movie. Maybe the marketing was to blame, leaving most with the impression that this was just another teen comedy off the same old assembly line. Maybe Kevin Smith is simply better suited to work in an independent, low budget frame of mind instead of within a big studio system that throws more cash at him than he knows what to do with.

Thankfully, Mallrats did eventually start to find an audience on home video, and probably will more so, now with this anniversary DVD. It deserves to. If the primary purpose of a comedy is to make you laugh, this film should be considered a success.

Video ****

"That kid is BACK ON THE ESCALATOR AGAIN!!"

I was caught off guard by the quality of this transfer. Being a fairly low budget film, I didn't expect anything fancy, but frankly, this is might rank as one of the best looking discs I've ever seen. No, there's not much in the way of carefully constructed cinematography at work here, but this image maintains a solid sharpness and clarity throughout without a hint of grain. Colors are solid and well defined, and nothing in the movie loses its edge, not even in deep focus scenes. The image is bright and clean, with no blemishes or compression to speak of at all.  The extended cut features some fractured footage here and there, so do not adjust your set.

Audio ***

"He tried to screw me somewhere VERY uncomfortable once."

"What...like the back of a Volkswagen?"

The 5.1 soundtrack is serviceable, and gets a little more use with this movie than with Kevin Smith's other films. There are chase scenes, comical audio effects, and plenty of great music to keep the audio lively and dynamic.  Universal definitely did right by this disc.

Features ****

"You know what?  THERE IS NO EASTER BUNNY!!"

I'm going to try not to leave anything out...to start off on side one with the theatrical version, there's a commentary track with Smith, Affleck, Lee, Mewes and others, which is a hoot to listen to.  There's a documentary that looks back on making the film.  Also included are some outtakes, a brief Q&A with Smith, a look back with with Smith, Mosier, Lee, Affleck and Mewes, and a music video for "Build Me Up Buttercup" by The Goops.

Side Two features the extended cut and a 50 minute reunion Q&A featuring Smith, Mosier, Mewes, London, Lee, Ethan Suplee, Renee Humphrey, producer James Jacks and cinematographer David Klein.  It's actually a funny and entertaining session.

Summary:

This is a funny, funny movie that doesn't try to be anything but that. And it succeeds, big time. Then there's the extended cut, which I'm guessing won't win many new fans, but might placate the curious.  Overall, it's a great disc, and a great way to kill an hour and a half, so enjoy.

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