Well, for the next film in my series of 1990s film reviews, I thought that I’d take a look at a Kevin Smith film from 1995 called “Mallrats”. I’m genuinely surprised that it has taken me this long to watch this film.
Seriously, despite buying a second-hand DVD of this film from a market stall about eight years ago, I only eventually got round to watching it for the first time shortly before I wrote this review.
So, this review has been a long time in the making. And, without any further ado, let’s take a look at “Mallrats”:
“Mallrats” is a stoner/slacker-themed romantic comedy that focuses on two adorable slackers called Brodie and TS Quint, whose girlfriends (Rene and Brandi) break up with them on the same morning.
Slightly disappointed by this turn of events, they decide to distract themselves by visiting their local shopping centre.
Needless to say, it isn’t long before they begin to hatch a convoluted and hilariously calamity-stricken plan (with the help of their friends Jay and Silent Bob) to win back the love of Rene and Brandi…..
I’m not doing the film justice with this short plot summary, but “Mallrats” is one of those films that is surprisingly difficult to describe. There are so many small story arcs, running jokes, clever references, sub-plots and other such things that a full summary of this complex comedy would probably guzzle up most of the review. Yet, despite this level of complexity, Mallrats is still a lean and streamlined 91-94 minutes in length. Now, this is good film-making!
As the title of the film suggests, most of the events of “Mallrats” take place within a large shopping centre and this helps to lend the film’s multitude of jokes and sub-plots a real sense of narrative focus that prevents the film from becoming chaotic or confusing. This is one of the most complex comedies that I’ve seen in a while – and it works really well, especially since many of the film’s sub-plots ended up being connected to each other in various ways.
In addition to lots of amusing sub-plots (such as one involving a notorious security guard called LaFours, one about a guy staring at a “Magic Eye” picture etc..) this comedic complexity is also a central part of the film’s dialogue too.
Although the comedy in this film includes a mixture of farce, pop culture references, gross-out humour/ “edgy” humour, character-based humour and slapstick comedy, the bulk of the film’s comedy comes from the gloriously irreverent and surprisingly complex rapid-fire dialogue.
Kevin Smith’s films often focus heavily on good writing and “Mallrats” is no exception. Not only is the dialogue filled with lots of amusing comments, sarcasm and funny insults but there are also a fair number of short descriptions of amusing events that occurred outside the events of the film too. This occasional use of narrative dialogue also allows a film that is (mostly) set in a single location to feel a lot more varied and complex.
The eccentric characters in this film are absolutely brilliant too – in addition to a few comedic background characters, the film mostly focuses on the friendship between TS Quint and Brodie, who are nice – but somewhat immature – “slacker” characters. They are contrasted with Rene and Brandi, who tend to be slightly more sarcastic and “realistic” characters.
But, the stand-out characters are Jay and Silent Bob, two stoners who turn up in many of Kevin Smith’s films (probably because Silent Bob is played by none other than Smith himself).
Not only do these characters get up to all sorts of hilarious mischief, but the version of these two characters in “Mallrats” is much better than the versions of them that appeared in “Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back” (since Jay isn’t homophobic, since both characters have better taste in music etc..). Plus, since they aren’t the main characters here, their personalities tend to stand out a bit more when contrasted with the other characters.
Stylistically, this film is brilliant! Not only does it open with a really cool comic book style opening credits montage (set to some wonderfully ’90s punk music), but the set design and general style of the film treads a very careful line between “realistic” and “highly stylised”. This goes really well with the film’s eccentric story and comics-related theme.
And, yes, despite being made in 1995, this film feels oddly “modern” (even down to the extended cameo by Stan Lee) in some parts due to the main characters’ obsession with *ugh* superhero comics. Even so, these elements of the film are mostly played for irreverent laughs rather than taken seriously. So, even if – like me- you aren’t a fan of superhero comics, then these elements of the film are still enjoyable to watch.
But, despite these modern elements, this film is still gloriously “90s” in so many ways.
Whether it’s the awesome punk music (seriously, I love 90s punk music 🙂), the focus on “edgy” humour, the costume and set design or even just the general “atmosphere” of the film, this film is very much a piece of 1990s nostalgia 🙂
In terms of the special effects, set design and lighting, this film is surprisingly good. Since it’s a low-mid budget comedy movie from over two decades ago, the special effects are a little on the basic side of things but they mostly work fairly well (with the only exception being a very slight jump in the footage when two characters use a motorised grappling hook).
Likewise, the shopping centre that the film is set in not only features some really cool lighting and set design, but also the occasional amusing background detail too. Although one of these background details (the carpet shop’s name) hasn’t aged well and seems a bit awkward when seen today – many of the background details are timelessly comedic:
Musically, this film is really good – with lots of awesome 1990s punk music playing in the background during a few scenes. Although I didn’t recognise any of the punk music, it certainly sounded like the kind of thing that I’d have probably considered to be even cooler if I’d watched this film when I was younger.
All in all, despite it’s immature and “edgy” exterior, “Mallrats” is actually a surprisingly complex and intelligently-made comedy film. Not only will this film make you laugh out loud, but you’ll be genuinely surprised at how many story threads, running jokes and comedic characters Kevin Smith manages to cram into just 91-94 minutes.
Although a few elements of the film’s humour are a bit dated, “Mallrats” still stands up really well as a comedy film to this day. Seriously, I wish modern Hollywood was as intelligent and creative as it often used to be in the 90s.
If I had to give this film a rating out of five, it would get at least four and a half.