They're not there to shop. They're not there to work. They're just there!
We start this series of famous Mall movies with the greatest mall movie ever made - Mallrats. This was the awkward second movie for Director Kevin Smith, who had previously had a surprise hit with the indie flick, Clerks. It has a lighter, more slapstick feel than Clerks and critically was not received very well. It was originally supposed to be 'porkies set in a mall', and although toned down, still had its more risque moments which recalls porkies. Cinema-goers showed their dislike of the film by, well, not going to see it; but once released on DVD, it took on a life of its own. It became a massive hit and captured a large gust of second wind on which to sail to cult status.
The premise is that Brodie has just lost his girlfriend Rene for various reasons (a callow nature being one) and, thanks to his girlfriend's dad's meddling, T.S. has also just about lost his girlfriend Brandi after a massive blow-out. How do the two decide to come to terms with this rejection? By going to the mall of course! Brodie is the main mallrat, but T.S. is not far behind, as evidenced by the in-depth discussion they both have regarding where the cookie stand fits in the grand scheme of mall things. Once at the mall (with Brodie speaking those immortal words 'I love the smell of commerce in the morning' upon entering, a nod to the famous napalm line from Apocalypse Now), chaos ensues when T.S. discovers that Brandi has been roped into doing a blind date TV show being broadcast live from the mall. Matters are not helped when Brodie finds out that another man has eyes for Rene, who wants to do unspoken things to her in the back of a Volkswagen. The pair want the girls back, and are aided by a whole cast of miscreants, the helmsman being the Easter-bunny-beating, kitten-hating Jay and his hetero life-mate Silent Bob, who are being closely observed by a terminator-like Mall guard named La Fours. I know what you're thinking... how on earth does a story like this become a flop? I wonder the very same thing!
The cast is great. It's made up of professional actors such as Michael Rooker and Shannon Doherty, but also has many of the actors from Clerks such as Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson who are personal friends of Smith. It's a charming combination that just makes some of the iffy acting all the more intoxicating. There is also a cameo by a greatly regarded icon of the nerd world, whose name will not be found here as a way of enticing you to watch the movie if you haven't already. If you've already seen it, go and watch it again!
Brodie Bruce: the king of the Mallrats!
Three malls are involved in Mallrats. The movie itself is based in the typical Kevin Smith / New Jersey universe, but the movie itself was filmed in the Eden Prairie Centre Mall in Minnesota, which was on its last legs during the filming, a blessing for production as the mall wasn't particularly busy throughout the day. Another mall is mentioned in the film, the Menlo Park mall which is actually in Jersey. Both malls are still around today for those wishing to make the pilgrimage. There was a third mall to which the two main protagonists went for some 'spiritual guidance'- the dirt mall. This is another glorious subset of the mall genre, and will be discussed in an upcoming feature. It was somewhere between a flea-market and a shopping centre but was sadly flattened and did not make it out of the 90s.
The official Mallrats trailer
The soundtrack to the movie is also of note. One of the main singles released during the promotion of mallrats was 'build me up buttercup' by the Goops, a punkified cover of the famous song by the Foundations. Other songs of note are 'social' by Squirtgun and 'broken' by famous grunge band Belly. However, the crowning glory arrives with the end credits as Jay and Silent Bob are heading off into the sunset with an Orangutan (who went on to be a leading thrust in one of Smith's later films). The ape's name was Susanne and that is the title of the Weezer song playing along with the scene. It is such a great ending to a great movie. Apart from the soundtrack being just plain fantastic, I mention the music for one very specific reason. The music, setting and style of the movie is so reflective of the period, so much so that I think half of the appeal of the film nowadays is how successfully it transports the viewer straight into the middle of 90s culture. Smith always manages this nifty trick. Every movie he makes becomes, to me at least, a snapshot of the time in which it was made. It is a feat very few movie-makers manage to pull off, only a handful of other films such as Napoleon Dynamite, Empire Records and the Breakfast Club spring immediately to mind.
Build me up buttercup by the Goops, featuring Director Kevin Smith as Silent Bob and Jason Mewes as Jay
Susanne by Weezer, this video featuring one of many running jokes from the film
The mall in the movie cocoons the viewer just as good malls do in real life. It is easy to think that a film with only one main setting could become tedious after a while, but the pace of events is so punchy, you never become jaded or tired. Clerks pulled off the same feat, being set entirely in a convenience store and adjoining video rental store. The sequel to Clerks was also set mainly in a fast food joint. This is clearly Kevin Smith's forte, and it is so well done in Mallrats.
The awesome female leads: Rene, Gwen, Brandi & Tricia
For those who have watched and love the movie, there is some great news. Kevin Smith took to twitter a few months ago to announce that he would be making a sequel to the film. However, it was recently stated that the movie is now to be a series. In honesty, I am slightly disappointed by this change of heart; but the opportunity to revisit the universe that this film created for me fills me with such joy and anticipation, I forgive Kevin for his lability. We will of course be covering the events of the new series as they unfold here at Mallrate. Smith's daughter, Harley-Quinn Smith, is said to be involved, and she has recently shown some great acting chops in Yoga Hosers. Of course this whole series will hang on whether Smith can entice Jason Lee to reprise his role as Brodie; without Brodie there can be no Mallrats 2! The fact that Mallrats 2 is even being discussed is a great sign, Smith famously apologised for making the film, albeit in a spirit of jest. But he acknowledged the poor initial reception and took it in his stride, seeing Mallrats as the awkward, unloved child of his Askewniverse. However, he has come to love this child, and is finally giving it the love and support it deserves.
Shannon - the villain of the piece. Also, Ben Affleck's first movie role
To conclude, this movie is great. If you love malls, if you love Kevin Smith, if you love the 90s, hell, if you love comedy, you have to see it if you haven't done so already. It has all of the ingredients necessary to give you an enjoyable two hours that you will want to dip into again and again. There are many different releases available, but I recommend the original theatrical release as some of the other releases have extended and extra scenes which just end up convoluting and over-complicating the perfect-as-is simple story about love, malls and love of malls. The chemistry between the actors is infectious and will leave you uplifted and happy. You will also likely want to head to your favourite local mall to have a day of blissful nothingness after you have finished watching. If you watch only one (old) movie (about malls) this year, make it Mallrats!