I used to consider myself a fan of Kevin Smith but when I look back at his films that I have seen, I soon realise that he isn’t quite as good as I first thought. You can’t really fault Clerks. Its original, pure “indie” and something quite unique, a film where nothing really happens but your attention doesn’t drift. Around the same time as I watched Clerks, I also caught Dogma. I loved Dogma, it was a film that effectively highlighted the absurdity of religion while still being very funny. From that moment on, I considered myself a Kevin Smith fan.
Things slowly started to go downhill though. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, as good an idea as that seemed, was just a cruise through silly scenes and cameos. Zack and Miri make a Porno and Cop Out have some great moments and were very watchable but overall, didn’t have the same early Kevin Smith magic.
So with that in mind, I was quite excited to watch Mallrats. This film was made in that time when Kevin Smith may still have been at his best. It also had the “indie,” “nothing really happens” feel of Clerks that made that film so appealing and successful. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to that.
It’s not that I wanted it to be as good as Clerks or that I’m judging it harshly in comparison, but it does feel like Smith wanted Mallrats to be another Clerks. It has two stoner friends, one main, generic location, Jay and Silent Bob and for the first half at least, the clever conversations highlighting the mundane, average lives of the characters.
It’s in this first half that Mallrats is at its strongest. It has the feel of Clerks, good conversations and funny set pieces that never really stray away from the “real life.” You can believe that Kevin Smith has based some of the situations and scenes on his own personal experience or at least that of his friends. It’s enjoyable to watch because you know of situations similar or at least can imagine that these things could happen to you and your friends.
Unfortunately, the film begins to change towards the second half. It becomes surreal and silly, with competing storylines that feel like they match-up but never do so in quite the clever way that I think Kevin Smith was intending. I usually love Jay and Silent Bob but their role in the second half of the film was a good example of how the movie began to get too silly, with them trying to steal the security guards hat or destroy the scaffold rigging.
It’s a shame because the acting in the film is very good and the actors chosen do a great job in their respective parts. Jason Lee plays the lead effectively and with a likable charm considering he’s an idiot. Ben Affleck is also a prefect choice of the slimy rival to Lee and you are thankful to see him get his comeuppance. From a geek view, the film more than delivers with a great cameo to go with some very geeky conversations.
This will just have to be a film that gets added to the “disappointed” column of the Kevin Smith movies. It might be that I have to reassess whether I really am a fan of his films after all (I do like his “stand-up” and his comics though).
Overall, a film of two halves. The first half is the funny, well-written glimpse into the mundane but equally fascinating lives of the everyday person. The second half then becomes a bit surreal and silly and it jarred with what had been established in the first half. A shame because there was potential for this to be brilliant.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)