Movie Review: “Mallrats” – A shaky step in my Kevin Smith Marathon

Fake Cartooning = Cool?

“Mallrats” (**)

As I finally get to the next installment of my Kevin Smith marathon, his movie Red State has been getting relatively rave reviews, which I feel validates my marathon – success! However, that film seems to be apart from the Askewniverse, Kevin Smith’s movie realm. Mallrats, clearly roots itself into that universe very deeply with a couple related characters and a few related themes.

Apparently the Orange Julius of Kevin Smith’s writing prowess was closed, and those juices stopped flowing. Mallrats was uninspired and a definite regression in writing from Clerks. His jokes were lazy and drab, featuring riffs mostly on Star Wars and Spiderman. That’s not a very big step into the nerd universe, although that might just be a frame of reference thing. So I hear, Star Wars was unpopular before Phantom Menace made the first one retro and cool again, and all comics beside Batman and Superman were practically pop-culture pariahs. So I’ll pretend that the unoriginal and flaccid comedy were stepping-stones to greater phenomena.

The major difference between this movie and Clerks, however, is not the poor writing, or the lack of an existential theme (really Kevin? A true love message? Lame). In fact, it’s the money thrown at him to make this movie. It’s clear that this movie has a real budget and is actually pretty visually interesting. There are a lot of great visual gags with the Wile E. Coyote-esque blueprints for Jay and Silent Bob’s mayhem, there are batman costumes, some pretty cool opening credits, and a third nipple.

I don’t think it’s necessary to give any sort of plot review, because it takes about a sentence to say (fine. Two guys get dumped and use different and ultimately both successful tactics to win back their girlfriends. Spoiler Alert?). The most enjoyable parts of the story were the B plots. Ethan Suplee was hilarious as Willam, an angry worthless guy, like most of Smith’s men, but with a unique goal – to see the sailboat in the magic picture. So true, so ‘90s, and the little kids really made his story line work. Jason Lee is also unrecognizable as Brodie, TS’s best friend. I guess he sounds like Jason Lee and acts a little lake Jason Lee, but wow has he really matured as a performer. He’s definitely the Randal of this movie, but his lines sting a lot less and his quirks are so much more subdued. But he’s got the physical comedy down, and was way more tolerable than the swishy haired Jeremy London.

Total Stranger

Jason Lee.

I can’t write a review about Mallrats without mentioning Ben Affleck. What an inauspicious role pre-Good Will Hunting. He does his job well, and definitely as a little extra sparkle to him, but no more than Joey Lauren Adams. Who knew he would be the breakout star of this film?

Ultimately, I have hope that after two imperfect movies, one of these Kevin Smith features (not Cop Out) will be a real winner. Clerks had an extremely strong screenplay. Mallrats was visually interesting. Maybe, just maybe Smith has married the two in one of his future movies for a really effective and complete film. Fingers crossed.

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