After watching Clerks and Clerks 2 in the last couple of weeks, and wanting something reasonably lighthearted after a busy weekend, I thought I’d jump back to Kevin Smith’s direct follow up to his debut, 1995’s Mallrats.
Taking us back to small town New Jersey once more there’s a lot here that sees Smith continuing with similar themes to Clerks but in a somewhat different generic format.
The similarities come as we meet our pair of male, slacker, college age ‘heroes’, TS Quint (Jeremy London) and Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee) as they get dumped by their respective girlfriends, Brandi (Claire Forlani) and Rene (Shannen Doherty) and decide the best cure for their woes would be a trip to the mall.
From there the plot heads in increasingly ridiculous directions with a teen movie sense of humour (I think this is Smith’s homage to the films of John Hughes) added to the general slacker vibes, all with a much bigger scale than Clerks that is evident even in the location with the mall replacing the Quick Stop convenience store.
As with Clerks the acting is hit and miss (somewhat surprisingly so given this featured professionals) but part of that I might put down to the script which features some extremely awkward dialogue that would maybe have sat better in the indie sensibility of the previous film than this, but there are still some terrific moments.
Added to all of that is a somewhat comic book style to proceedings with imagery and dialogue that could be lifted from the page if we were dealing with superheroes and not lovelorn ‘kids’.
Even more so than Clerks the film is packed with references to other media from comics to films to even Smith’s own ‘universe’ that clearly was already well developed in his head with appearances from characters directly referenced previously and even events having a knock on effect.
A few actors require a mention, Shannen Doherty, then ‘hot’ from appearing in Beverly Hills 90210 is an odd choice but one that works while a small part of Ben Affleck is brilliantly off kilter compared to what he went on to.
Smith regular Brian O’Halloran is back in a cameo as the brother of Clerks’ Dante, and Jay & Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith himself) return too in almost literal comic form as they go from just low rent drug dealers to the bigger characters they were to become later.
Elsewhere we get a great cameo from Stan Lee and Michael Rooker is oddly out of place but, as always, seems to give his all.
All of this makes Mallrats a film that is, possibly more than any of Smith’s earlier work, wildly inconsistent in tone and approach with its fair share of jokes that fall a bit too flat (and I suspect references that wouldn’t stand up to a modern audience) but there’s still plenty there to raise a laugh from gross out to stuff to witty chat to the outright offensive guilty sniggers so, with a possible hint of nostalgia, I couldn’t but still really enjoy the movie, even if it’s faults are fairly evident, certainly more so than Clerks.