Kevin Smith's films have developed quite a devoted fan base over the years. His very funny offensive humor mixed with social commentary is often a hit or miss affair, and I must admit I admire all of his films. And yes, I even liked "Jersey Girl". The comedic duo "Jay And Silent Bob" never fail to crack me up, especially Jay, he is just one of the funniest, obnoxious characters in recent comedies.
Kevin Smith's decision to abandon those characters troubled me, they really could have made "Jersey Girl" a better film, of course it was doomed from the start after the disaster known as "Gigli" and received a lot of unfair criticism because of the unfortunate timing of its release. And in many ways I think "Mallrats" was unfairly judged by Smith fans and critics alike; I am surprised it wasn't a box office draw. In retrospect, it was a movie of and for the times. "Mallrats" is Kevin Smith's second film, a follow up to his excellent breakthrough low budget hit "Clerks", so expectations were very high.
The film starts off when a character named T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) gets dumped by his girlfriend Brandi (Claire Forlani), the same thing happens to his best friend Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee) and his girlfriend Rene (Shannon Doherty), so they decide to take a day strolling around the mall, trying to make sense of their dual tragedies. Jason Lee is terrific and his character truly has some of the funniest lines in the film. He is an obsessed comic book collector, and has a warped cynical way of looking at life that is actually quite contagious, and the character of Brodie is certainly the star of the movie, a film about disillusioned youth. As they attempt to go about their day, we meet (like in all of Smith's films) an outrageous group of people, and get into some pretty unlikely situations, all filmed in a comic book like fashion. The dynamic and seemingly stoned duo of Jay And Silent Bob are here (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith) of course, as are an arch-nemesis in the form of mall employee Shannon Hamilton (Ben Affleck) who is trying to make moves on Brodie's ex (who coincidentally is shopping at the mall). Their confrontations become quite heated at times.
We also meet a teenaged sex guru who is writing a sex manual Renee Humphrey (Tricia Jones), T.S. Quint's other ex Gwen (Joey Lauren Adams) and an extremely angry and nervous performance by Michael Rooker as Mr. Jarred Svenning (father of T.S.'s recent ex Brandi, who is coincidentally filming an episode of a Dating Game style show at this very mall, with Brandi standing in as the guest), and of course the legendary Stan Lee. As you can imagine, things get out of control and the situations become outrageous, all of this under the guise of a relationship comedy.
But don't be fooled, this is one hundred percent grade A Kevin Smith, if not a little sloppy at times. Don't forget, this is only his second film. He really throws everything into a blender with this one, but the true greatness of this often despised film is in the dialogue, it is very well written, and often very funny, and sometimes even quite stupid. But he really throws all of the ingredients into this one. Interestingly, many of these actors also appear in Richard Linklater's earlier films. So, I recommend this movie, because I think it succeeds at what it is trying to do and find it interesting watching a filmmaker experiment and try to find his voice, which despite all of the studio money is exactly what this is. It's very rough around the edges and some of it works and some of it doesn't, in fact it doesn't seem offensive enough to some people, but for all of its faults I end up liking it every time I revisit it, just like all of his films. I think his insight into relationships and the hopeful nature of his outlook about men and women is realistic and honest, if not at times brutal. In the end it is very sweet, though, not overly Spielberg 80's sweet, either.
As for the image quality, it has never looked better than it does in this edition. I don't know what everyone may expect, it certainly doesn't look pristine and perfect and doesn't appear to have been newly remastered, but this is a very colorful film, and all of the colors seem very well reproduced and can be stunning at times. The quality varies from scene to scene, and we have some film grain, but it looks very film like and natural. If you are a Kevin Smith collector, this is the version to own, but it isn't perfect. Some scenes look far better than others, and there are some instances of edge enhancement and a couple of times we notice a slight scratch on the print. And the detail on some of the objects in the background appears to be a little soft at times. It looks as good as I wanted it to and better, but definitely not showcase material. Definitely better than ever, though.
As for the sound, this is a dialogue heavy film with very little actual surround effects, but we have a very nice sound field all the same, the voices come across very clear, and the music has never sounded better. This film offers a very nice selection of music by the way and I also enjoyed the score. The Dolby Digital Plus has got to be an upgrade from past editions but I didn't have anything at hand to compare it to. It sounds just as good as I wanted it to, even a little better. I think it is a very honest recreation of the way it sounded in theaters and probably a world better, but we never really get a real workout as subwoofer and surrounds, that's because Smith doesn't really use a lot of that. I don't review soundtracks based solely on surround sound effect, this film is simply front heavy, and when the music kicks in it sounds great. Woody Allen still uses mono.
All of the special features from the recent edition of "Mallrats" have been ported over from the previous release. They are all very well done and very extensive, like all of Smith's special editions, but we don't have any real HD-DVD exclusives, which is just a little surprising because I know how Smith is into the visual commentaries and every other DVD gimmick (even though he notoriously denounced the format on his "Chasing Amy" commentary from the laserdisc version and the Criterion DVD, he has obviously since recanted, and on DVD). Then again, he was hard at work with Clerks 2. All of the special features are standard definition.
First up, we have a commentary that is simply a must listen. We have on board Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, producer Scott Mosier, Jason Mewes, Jason Lee, and production assistant Vincent Perreira. I am not a huge fan of commentaries, but this one is so fun and the people are so honest with each other, it ventures far away from the topic of the film. I've seen Ben Affleck on a couple of episodes of Bill Maher; he is very funny and intelligent. It seems that a few drinks may have been consumed. Affleck's commentaries are sometimes better than his films, such as is the case on "Armageddon" from The Criterion Collection. Anyway, he really shakes things up on this commentary, and trust me you have to listen to it, just turn it on and go about your daily chores, very funny stuff.
Next up is something just as fun: 'Mallrats: The Reunion' (49 min.) has almost the whole cast reunite and answer questions from an audience/panel. It makes me want to watch those "An Evening With Kevin Smith" discs. He loves talking about his work and really knows how to work a crowd. Let's face it, all of the people involved in Kevin Smith's bonus features make them just as entertaining (or more so in some cases) as the movies themselves, and that comment includes other Special Edition releases as well by Smith and crew.
And the others are no exception, 'A Brief Q & A With Kevin Smith' (9 min), 'The Erection Of An Epic' (22 min), and 'View Askew's Look Back at Mallrats' (21 min) are all very well made, as far as honesty and insight. Normally these featurettes are simply studio driven self-promotions, but all of these have such a real tone it is almost impossible to ignore. Let's just say they aren't exactly promoting the film. More like apologizing.
'Cast Interviews From The Original Set' (9 min) is a very self-promoting and hopeful piece that captures all throughout this sophomore effort and is interesting in retrospect, it definitely stands out from the other features. Not really worth your time, but you have come this far into the land of Special Features, why stop here?
We also have eight minutes worth of 'Outtakes', 'Deleted Scenes' which should have been deleted, "Build Me Up Buttercup" by The Goops is a music video directed by Kevin Smith, very interesting, although it makes me realize I have a strange aversion to the word Buttercup. We also have the trailer. This disc is crammed with more features than you should require and then some. You won't be disappointed by at least half of them.
"Mallrats" is a film that deserves its cult classic status, and can be a lot of fun. If you are a Smith fan, then it's a given. If not, I would definitely suggest a rental. Its flaws are so revealing they make the whole picture fascinating. Even when it's off the mark, the point is they tried, and it retains a positive and fun feeling underneath the whole mess, even when it oversteps it's own boundaries, which are sometimes derivative of "Porky's"-style humor, which was done better in the original "American Pie". Kevin Smith just couldn't keep Kevin Smith out of this sex comedy, to the studios eventual financial disappointment. The special features alone are worth the price of admission. Let alone the fact we have a decent 1080p transfer. And it belongs on HD-DVD, because there is truly a lot going on in the background (visually and historically) in this comic book like film. Don't pass it up.