Kevin Smith directs Jason Lee, Jeremy London and Jason Mewes in this scatalogical day in the life farce following the slackers that populate a New Jersey shopping mall.
Straight to video when released in the U.K. yet I’d struggle to find anyone of my generation who hasn’t seen it, this was a poster on my wall as a teenager. Nowhere near as thoughtful or genuine as Smith’s no budget debut Clerks but pleasingly broader and more colourful, Mallrats hits many of the same geeky (Stan Lee, the cast being named after Jaws characters, Jedi Mind Tricks) and foul mouthed buttons (“You’re gonna listen to me? To something I said? Jesus, man, haven’t I made it abundantly clear during the tenure of our friendship that I don’t know shit? I mean, half the time I’m just talking out of my ass, or sticking my hand in it.”) with the indulgent abandon of someone who is making a movie with Universal’s money rather than personal credit card debt. Like Desperado or Pulp Fiction or Dazed and Confused, a Sundance lauded director clearly had a load of budget and freedom thrown at them with the instruction “Do the same thing as you just did with $50 and a camcorder, but more… mass market.” It is a looser film, the dialogue energetic even when punchlineless and the more physical stuff is knowingly awkward rather than impressive. John Hughes and John Landis are name checked in the credits but you could equally bung in Porky’s or Police Academy. For every sensitive piece of verbose emoting and spot on soundtrack choices, there are a pair of crowbarred in breasts (“What can I say? I love tits.”), for all the longing the boy’s have to “woo” their exes back, their exes are paperthin dolls who bend which ever way the wind of the plot blows them. All the girls are painted as happy to move onto the next dick within hours, whereas the boys are left in a yearning funk. Is this progressive? Sexist? I don’t know, it is hard not to see the actresses as mere prizes to be re-won or stereotypical sluts. The boys standout with the best lines and most compelling performances. And that’s what makes Mallrats an unsung great among 90s studio comedies; three brilliant central turns. Ben Affleck’s fashion shop villian is a cruel bully – boo-hiss perfect. Jason Mewes reprises his Clerks’ Jay and it is glorious. His introduction banging on the pet store glass at some kittens is perfect, as are his new weird baby talk catchphrases “Snootchie-bootchies.” But Jason Lee, in his first starring role, takes aim at the inherently unlikeable character of Brodie and just runs full pelt at it. No matter what offensive nonsense he is left to spout he imbues it with enthusiasm and heart, he also knows how to softly undersell the smarter lines so they stand out. I had a jacket like his at his age, and his defensive loud bluster. I’m not sure how loved this throwaway film is outside my own thin demographic but for us, the few, it is our It Happened One Night, a generation’s American Graffiti. Flaws and all. And the running gag about Magic Eye picture is a true thing of beauty.