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Introduction
As a fairly recent convert to the films of Kevin Smith, I actually ended up seeing Mallrats after all of Smith’s other works. This is mostly because of the critical bashing it received, and the jokes that Kevin himself has made about the feature in the various commentary tracks he’s done. Still, I tried to go into the film with an open mind.

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Film
Chronologically, Mallrats occurs the day before the events in Smith’s first feature, Clerks. T.S Quint (Jeremy London) is planning a weekend getaway with his girlfriend, Brandi Svenning (Claire Forlani). Unfortunately certain events, for which T.S. isn’t entirely blameless, prompt a huge argument that leads to the pair breaking up (well, Brandi dumping T.S. at any rate). This greatly pleases Brandi’s father, who absolutely loathes T.S. Mr Svenning is an aspiring television producer who just happens to want his darling daughter to appear on his tacky 'Blind Date' style game show.

Seeking solace over his loss, T.S. heads off to visit his best friend Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee), a guy who has turned lack of direction into an art form. Brodie has also just been dumped by his girlfriend Rene (Shannen Doherty), but seems far less concerned about this turn of events than T.S. Seeking to take their minds off of their respective exes, the pair head to the local shopping mall. When T.S. and Brodie discover that Brandi’s father is planning to host his game show at that same mall, they hatch a plan to sabotage the proceedings, enlisting the ultimate slackers 'Jay and Silent Bob' to help them accomplish their goal.

Along the way we get to meet all sorts of weird and wacky characters who inhabit the mall, including the sexually deviant owner of ‘Fashionable Male’ (played by Ben Affleck) who just happens to be hitting on Brodie’s girl, Willam Black (Ethan Suplee), who has more than a little trouble with magic eye posters, and Marvel Comics' legend Stan Lee in a small cameo.

Mallrats is probably the weakest of Kevin Smith’s films, but that’s not to say it is as bad as the critics make out. Many of the problems stem from the fact that certain scenes don’t ‘feel’ like they belong in a Smith film, most probably because of the studio’s involvement. The standard of the acting is also highly variable, with London unable to carry off his role as leading man T.S. Fortunately Jason Lee is as good as ever and, while he’ll never win an Academy Award, he has the perfect voice and delivery for Smith’s dialogue, which is as sharp as ever.

Both Claire Forlani and Shannen Doherty are fine as the female leads, although Forlani’s English accent comes through loud and clear in many scenes. Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith (as their alter egos Jay and Silent Bob) have a lot more to do in Mallrats than they did in Clerks, and I for one welcome their presence. You can’t help loving Mewes, who has a very unique approach to acting. Smith’s best moments as Silent Bob are when he remains slilent, and thankfully he only opens his mouth once during the course of the film. Together Jay and Silent Bob contribute to many of the more memorable comedic moments throughout the film. Oh, special mention must also go to Stan Lee, if only for the fact that the guy is a legend!

Video
The 1.85:1 anamorphic video is a mixed affair. On the whole the quality is fine, but I found the picture a little soft for my liking. The colour palette also seems a little dull and washed out at times, and there are a couple of instances where the brightness seems to fluctuate rapidly. However, this may have just been some badly inserted footage from one of the many re-shoots. It’s not a bad transfer by any means, as on the whole there are no major image problems to report, it just can’t compete with the likes of T2 or Fight Club.

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Audio
Mallrats comes complete with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, which is almost overkill for this type of movie. I found the music to be a little muted at times, but the all-important dialogue was always nice and clear. What little surround action there is has been limited to a few nice spot effects during the action sequences, as well as general ambience in the mall. There is even the odd rumble from the sub, which is satisfying, but this is certainly no ‘Saving Private Ryan’.

Extras
This is where the disc comes into its own, with a brilliant array of extra material. Chief among this is the fantastic audio commentary featuring Kevin Smith, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, Ben Affleck, Scott Mosier and Vincent Pereira. This commentary is the best I’ve heard (with the possible exception of Dogma), mixing interesting info and anecdotes from the set with hilarious banter. Most of this banter is between Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck, and the two friends obviously enjoy ripping into one another. The rest of the cast and crew chime in with amusing or interesting comments from time to time, but it is clear that Smith and Affleck are driving the proceedings. In addition to the actor’s voices, you can also activate the multi angle feature of the disc to watch selected live footage of the cast in the studio recording the commentary. I say selected live footage, as the video track doesn’t run the full length of the disc as it does with some releases.

Another interesting segment is the “Viewaskew Production’s Look Back At Mallrats”. This is basically Kevin Smith defending the film from the harsh criticism levied at it. In the sequence he talks about the studio’s involvement, and his thoughts on why the movie bombed at the box office. This is an entertaining piece to watch, and worth more than one viewing.

Next we have the deleted scenes. Containing over an hours worth of material, you’re not going to get bored too quickly! Along with two completely new openings for the film (one filmed, another in script form), the viewer is treated to many clips and outtakes, all introduced by Kevin Smith.

Also included is the MCA Soundtrack Presentations music video for The Goop’s “Build Me Up Buttercup”, a song that also appeared in the film “There’s Something About Mary”, albeit in a vastly different form. The video, directed by Kevin Smith, features Jay and Silent Bob clowning around and is introduced with a sign that says 'How To Make A Movie Tie-In Music Video When You Can't Get Spike Jonze.'

Next come the production notes and some unusually comprehensive cast and filmmaker biographies. The penultimate extra is the theatrical trailer, which makes the film look a lot more exciting than it actually is! Finally we have a Universal web link and an unadvertised easter egg (that can be found on the DVDBlokes site).

All of the extras are accessible through a series of well designed, comic book themed animated menus. All in all this is an admirable collection of supplemental material, as is the norm for Smith DVDs.

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Overall
With Mallrats you’re basically getting a fairly average film on an above average DVD. There are certainly enough moments in the movie to keep you amused, and even a few belly laughs, but just don’t expect another ‘Clerks’. When viewed as part of the whole “Askewniverse”, Mallrats is probably the least memorable instalment. That’s my take on it anyway, although I’m sure many will disagree. Basically, Smith fans will buy this film no matter what I say, so it’s a good job that the disc is a corker. Recommended for ardent fans of the New Jersey films, but everyone else may do well to try before they buy.


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