Monday, April 13, 2015

I'd Love to Turn You On At the Movies #113 - Mallrats (1995, dir. Kevin Smith)

Brodie: There is something out there that can help us ease our simultaneous double loss.
T.S. Quint: What? Ritual suicide?
Brodie: No, you idiot, the f*#@ing mall!
T.S. Quint: I'd prefer ritual suicide.
Brodie: Oh come on man it'll be great. They have these new cookies at the cookie stand, you have to try 'em. They're awesome.

When ruminating upon films to write about I initially skipped over everything by Kevin Smith simply because I assumed that everyone had already seen them, however when I thought about it a little more about it I decided it’s time for people take a bit of a closer look at Mallrats. If you have seen this film before then you probably know how quirky, quotable, and fun it is; if you haven’t seen it there is a chance that you were in a coma through the nineties and it is time you got caught up (apologies to anyone who actually was in a coma… my bad). The truth about this film is that it is a perfect distillation of a generation of mall-walking nerd scholars of the nineties, and the result is straight up enjoyable.

While I have had a tendency to try and turn you on to more obscure and often esoteric masterworks of cinema, I, like everyone else, have a soft spot in my heart for a well-crafted comedy. While Smith’s dialogue and the acting can be a little rough around the edges, on the whole the movie plays out like a crass, sophomoric version of a Woody Allen film. The central figures, Brodie and T.C., have just been dumped by their respective significant others. T.C. (played by Jeremy London) was dumped for being stubborn when his girlfriend Brandi (Claire Forlani) had to cancel their trip to Florida (he WAS going to propose when Jaws popped out of the water), and Brodie (Jason Lee) was dropped by Rene (Shannen Doherty) for simply being an aimless and oblivious nerd. Joining forces, the two of them convene at the mall to ease their heartache (“I love the smell of commerce in the morning”). The rest of the film follows these two characters as they meander through the mall and engage in witty, although often crude, dialogue and stumble into a number of slapstick happenstances.

As the plot ambles along our heroes both put into play different strategies to prove their love to their former partners and win them back. T.C. hatches a number of different plans to stop Brandi’s father’s dating game show that Brandi is now the reluctant star of, while Brodie takes the long road to realizing that he wants Rene back. Luckily for them, and the plot of the film, most everything in the mid-nineties centered on the mall, the game show is happening in the mall and Rene is currently on a date with Brodie’s unseemly arch-nemesis at (where else?) the mall. The film’s climax happens as everything comes together on the stage of the live screening of Brandi’s father’s dating game, but you will have to watch to find out how this film ends.

The key thing that makes this film so enjoyable is the fact that as the two main characters walk the mall they run across a series of crazy side characters that keep the plot moving and add a certain comedic charm. As this is the second film in Kevin Smith’s “View Askewniverse” series there are a number of connections to its predecessor Clerks (1994) – notably the fact that Jay and Silent Bob play a prominent comedic role (nooch!). In addition to the undeniably likeable stoner duo, there are a number of other reoccurring characters, most importantly a sloppy large man that can’t see the sailboat in the magic eye poster (“When lord! When the hell do I get to see the goddamn sailboat!”), Ben Affleck playing a deplorable manager of The Fashionable Male who has a hot temper and a penchant for a certain sexual deviation, and a number of quick but poignant cameos from none other than Stan Lee!

Taking a step back, and separating the movie from my nostalgic attachment to this quick-witted hour and a half, the cinematography is good but nothing to write home about (another connection that can be drawn to a lot of Woody Allen flicks) and the direction can be a tad lack-luster or a bit heavy handed. However, if you can look past its minor shortcomings, the charm and wit of the writing and the appeal of the naïve acting of the entire cast will certainly win you over. It has been a while since I have watched anything directed by Kevin Smith (and on a side note this film turns 20 this year… AHH!), so I decided to do it right, crack a cold beer, and sit back to see if I enjoyed it as much as I used to. And, of course, it was just as I remembered it - a quick amusing ride. Masterpiece cinema it may not be, but an extremely enjoyable popcorn flick it certainly is! So unless you have recently been screwed in a very uncomfortable place (like the back of a Volkswagen?) and lost your sense of humor you will most likely find yourself charmed by this super fun nineties flick, so, CHECK IT!

            - Edward Hill

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