Starring: Jason Lee, Shannen Doherty, Jeremy London, Claire, Forlani, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams
Director: Kevin Smith
Over the past decade, writer/director Kevin Smith has established a loyal cult following, but there's no doubting that "Mallrats" has been singled out as the fans' least favorite film. And unlike the director's other projects, which were released under the Miramax brand, "Mallrats" was produced as a studio picture with Universal, thus making it a completely different style of Smith film. Despite the indisputable differences though, "Mallrats" is the funniest movie in the entire View Askew catalog and boasts perhaps one of the finest comedic performances of the decade, thanks to skateboarding pro Jason Lee's unexpected jump to the big screen.
Chronologically taking place one day prior to the events in "Clerks," the story revolves around best friends T.S. (Jeremy London) and Brodie (Lee), both of whom have just been dumped by their longtime girlfriends. In order to escape the boredom of another day in New Jersey, the comic-book loving Brodie drags T.S. to the local mall to hang out. But when they discover that their ex-flames are also there, they enlist in the help of resident troublemakers Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith, respectively), and devise a plan to win them back. This doesn't ensue without a few obstacles, of course, including a hardened mall security guard named LaFours, the irate father (Michael Rooker) of T.S.' girlfriend Brandi (Claire Forlani), and a cocky salesman (Ben Affleck) who's putting the moves on Brodie's ex, Rene (Shannen Doherty).
It's difficult to gauge Smith's talent as a director, since he never really pulls off any amazing camera movements or such, but he's easily one of the better writers in the industry. Similar to the writing flair of Tarantino, Smith saturates his scripts with entertaining, yet drawn out monologues and superfluous pop culture references. It takes a mighty good writer to turn a day at the mall with a group of slackers into something with substance, and Smith pulls it off without a hitch.
"Mallrats" ultimately succeeds for another reason though, namely the saving grace comedic performance of then-newcomer Jason Lee, whose paragraph-long speeches on such things as the boundaries of a food court are among some of the film's finest moments. It would be safe to assume that Jeremy London's T.S. character is the main protagonist of the film, but Lee's Brodie is so appealing that the audience becomes far more interested in his story than any other. Closely on par with Lee's performance, though, is the habitually annoying Affleck, who - before becoming a big-time Hollywood star was actually a decent character actor. Further evidence of this can be found in the Richard Linklater cult hit "Dazed and Confused," where he pretty much plays the same role of the arrogant asshole that he does here.
Despite the poor fan reaction to the film, "Mallrats" has been widely considered the gateway movie to all things Kevin Smith - kind of like how marijuana is to the rest of the drug family - and after watching the most mainstream project on his resume (excluding "Jersey Girl" - that doesn't count, for obvious reasons), you'll definitely be craving more. I'd suggest checking out "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy" next, but don't expect as rich of a comedy as "Mallrats," because there aren't too many like it.
The Extended Cut DVD release of "Mallrats" is needed about as much as any other Special Edition DVD these days, but it's not a bad purchase for those that don't already own the film. Transferred over in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen video format and boasting a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, the special features aren't very different from the original 1998 DVD release. Included on this dual-sided disc are a series of old interviews from 1996 and '98 spread across three different featurettes, an additional sitdown with Kevin Smith, and eight minutes of outtakes. Also included is a production photo slideshow, a music video and the theatrical trailer. Perhaps the two biggest additions to this DVD (and the main reason for fans to go out and re-buy this) is the inclusion of a new cast and crew reunion Q&A, as well as the extended cut version of the film. The newer edit of the film is a whopping 27-minutes longer than the theatrical version (and is prefaced by a 10-minute intro by Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier), but sadly, a majority of the new material includes a never-before-seen beginning that's both too long and just plain sucks.
Any fan is better off sticking with the theatrical cut of the movie, but don't forget to check out the feature commentary track with director Smith, producer Mosier, and stars Jason Lee, Ben Affleck and Jason Mewes. By far one of the better audio tracks around, this is also the most appealing special feature on the new disc.