Mallrats (1995)

In the closing credits of MALLRATS, writer/director Kevin Smith's first
feature with a "real" budget, the twentysomething filmmaker thanks John
Landis and John Hughes.  The respective directors of THE BLUES BROTHERS
and THE BREAKFAST CLUB are the apparent inspirations for this wildly
erratic teen comedy that just happens to have a higher laugh count than
either GET SHORTY or TO DIE FOR.  Though less cohesive than CLERKS, the
infamous low-budget, convenience-store comedy that marked Smith's debut,
MALL RATS still scores with a sustained stream of raunchy gags, winning
performances, and geeky pop references.

The title sequence is treat:  a montage of phony comic-book covers, each
representing one of the story's characters.  It's an inspired opening for
the introduction of Brody (Jason Lee), an angry, anal-retentive comic-book
collector-- is there any other kind?-- who has just been dumped by his
girlfriend (Shannen Doherty).  His best buddy (Jeremy London) has suffered
the same fate, on the same morning (!), and so they go to do what any two
ego-bruised, college-aged, middle-class males would do.  They go to
The Mall.  (Eden Prairie Center, actually, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
Where *I* used to visit as a youth!)

Most of MALLRATS plays like a demented sitcom, with Brody spinning endless
riffs on the food court, Superman's sperm, and unsupervised children on
the escalator.  His best advice:  how to give a "stink palm."  The romance
scenes are a flop.  Except for one demented sequence featuring comic-book
legend Stan "The Man" Lee giving relationship advice to Brody.  If
anything, MALLRATS is at its funniest when one of these fringe characters
steps into the foreground.  Such as Jay and Silent Bob, two returning
characters from CLERKS who engage in some amusing Wile E. Coyote mischief.

For all his naughty bits and GenX humor, Kevin Smith seems most intent
upon mining the last two decades of pop culture for the funnier jokes
and related gags.  Some of the silliness includes an intended marriage
proposal at Universal Studios Florida, Silent Bob attempting to channel
The Force as a Jedi-in-training, and "The Girl from Ipanema," a Landis
trademark, playing as background mall music.  He even stages a shot-for-
shot recreation of a bit from BATMAN.

If there's a pronounced problem with MALLRATS, one that goes beyond the
bland production design and loose-fitting narrative, it's the story's
horny-young-male mindset.  Too many of the female characters are of the
wet-dream variety, including a ludicrous 15 year-old who is conducting a
parent-condoned sex study by sleeping with as many men as is necessary.
Come on Kevin, we don't mind a *little* maturity.  Really.

Grade: B-

Copyright 1995 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted to triangle.movies

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