90s Movie Month! "Mallrats" Review

Photo Credit: Gramercy Pictures (I)

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90s Movie Month! "Mallrats" Review

Rating: R (strong language, including sexual dialogue, some scenes of sexuality and drug content)
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: October 20, 1995
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Genre: Comedy/Romance

Boys love their toys, and few toys are as beloved as a video game console. That's the problem that Rene (Shannen Doherty) faces with boyfriend Brody (Jason Lee), who can't seem to put down the controller of his Sega long enough to spend any time with her. Her friend Brandi (Claire Forlani) is equally frustrated with her boyfriend T.S. (Jeremy London), and breaks up with him. The two broken-hearted boys choose to go hang out at the local mall in lieu of drinking or other traditional breakup rites of passage.

While at the mall trying to forget their exes, the boys instead bump right into them since the ladies have decided a little retail therapy is in order. Clearly some emotions are still there, especially on the part of T.S., who hatches a plan to win back Brandi since he'd intended to propose to her before she broke things off. He gets Brody to help him, although he's distracted by Rene's blatant flirting with Gill (Brian O'Halloran), who works in one of the mall's stores and absolutely despises men like Brody who take their hot girlfriends for granted.

T.S. and Brody come up with a harebrained scheme to get Brandi back that includes hijacking the dating show hosted by her famous dad Svenning (Michael Rooker), who never liked T.S. and is glad they broke up. He even manages to drag pot dealers Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) into the plan, although the end result is fairly unexpected. Before their plan is put into action, they encounter one setback after another, each more hilarious than the last. There's a revolving door of weirdoes shopping the mall, and even a cameo by Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee to entertain viewers before the big ending, which may surprise some viewers.

"Mallrats" is the middle entry in writer and director Kevin Smith's highly-touted New Jersey Trilogy, which also included "Clerks" and "Chasing Amy." Though he would go on to produce more movies set in his beloved New Jersey, including the aptly-named "Jersey Girl," these three are still a part of the original trilogy and among the most entertaining of all his films. When "Mallrats" came out in 1995, it was on the heels of "Clerks," the cult classic that established Smith's career as a filmmaker. Despite the heightened expectations, "Mallrats" went on to become a successful movie and made enough money to allow Smith to finish his trilogy. It was just as in-your-face as "Clerks," but the social commentary about money and consumerism was ramped up because the locale changed from a tiny convenience store to a huge suburban mall. Basically, everything is on a bigger scale, and the film is in color to boot rather than black-and-white like "Clerks" was.

Smith isn't just a writer and director, he's also an occasional actor, having appeared in "Clerks" as the quiet half of the duo Jay and Silent Bob. He doesn't utter a word in either film, but he leaves quite an impression with just his gestures and facial expressions. Jay and Silent Bob pretty much steal the show here, acting as a surrogate of sorts for the audience and judging all the passersby at the mall. Their antics and attitude towards the world are nothing short of hilarious and provide the most laughs out of any characters in the film. After "Mallrats," many critics and fans wondered aloud why Jay and Silent Bob didn't have their own film. Smith would answer that question with 2001's "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," where the self-described "hetero soulmates" would get to be front and center. Thankfully, there was just enough Jay and Silent Bob in this film to tide fans over during the six-year gap.

By writing, directing, and acting in this film, Smith helped to usher in a new type of filmmaking that's wildly entertaining while still made on a shoestring budget. The 1990s was a decade of huge change in the industry, and Smith was a part of that and is still breaking rules to this day. Anyone who's seen his more recent exploits like "Comic Book Men" and "Red State" should go back and see "Mallrats" to get a sense of where the director came from. It doesn't have to be seen as part of the trilogy, but it wouldn't hurt to see all three in a row, and spend an afternoon watching the evolution of an iconoclast.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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