by Greg Muskewitz
I just finally got around to watching Kevin Smith's follow-up to Clerks, the critically hailed original indie comedy from 1994, to his much bashed and trashed youth-comedy from 1995, Mallrats.Maybe it is because I had my expectations so low, but I fail to accept that. Mallrats is by no means great, but it certainly has its funny lifeline running throughout the movie. The plot isn't particularly clever: two young guys (Jason Lee and Jeremy London) are dumped by their girlfriends, and both are on the fringe, and are looking to reunite. What can cure the blues better than heading to The Mall of the World? Lee's character is by far the more interesting, though less responsible and reckless, as he comically obsesses everything. And by comically, I mean by comic books. (We're even treated to a nicely placed monologue by comic innovator Stan Lee himself.) Smith, as always, is very good with his dialogue --kind of the high-schoolers' Whit Stillman-- and he has a way of making these characters function in a non-mechanical, intellectual way. Having seen from Clerks to Dogma, it is easy to say that this is Smith's weakest effort, mostly because it's too broad for his own good. The script itself is too scattered and stretched amongst the characters, some of which are great in the Smithian tradition (Jay --Jason Mewes, and Silent Bob --Smith himself, turn up; Joey Lauren Adams, several others), and others which just fill the quota (Ben Affleck, Shannon Doherty). Regardless, Smith keeps a good pace flowing throughout, and only near the end does is drop from that comfortable feel, before picking back up with the "broadcast" of Truth or Date. It remains to have something to offer as a commentary on love. Jason Lee, purposely annoying, is good and fits the role without complications. London has a nice presence, partially for his logic and partially because he isn't the main focus. Adam's role, however brief is cute, and I believe the basis for Natasha Lyonne's role in American Pie. Clare Forlani shows up as London's "ex," and it took quite away for her to catch on. She's very cute, but isn't given any room to maneuver. Affleck's role stinks, but the only surprise casting is in Doherty, who just can't hold her weight with the rest. It's a clash of skill and placement; like Alec Baldwin's misplacement in David Mamet's State and Main, Doherty can't hold to Smith's dictum. Mallrats still has enough appeal to reach beyond many of the current teen-oriented flicks.Final Verdict: B-.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=501&reviewer=172
originally posted: 01/06/01 05:32:21