MALLRATS 1/2 *
The most imaginative part of "Mallrats" comes with its opening credits, which are blatantly sexual comic book pictures --and that's not too imaginative either.
The biggest laugh in "Mallrats" came from an audience of 11-12 year olds assembled in rows 15 and 16,when the two protagonists-buddies consult a fortune teller who bares her top and exhibits three nipples. (Number Three, of course, is a fake, but the boys are taken in). Even then, it was only size 4 or 5 laughter on a scale of 1 to 10.
The view of American youth in "Mallrats" tries to be funny, which it isn't. It might have been a satire of slackers and mall culture but it isn't that either. It's plain dull and just a series of nails on the American coffin.
The filmmaker is Kevin Smith, whose feature writer-director debut was "Clerks," an original, plotless comedy of people in and around a convenience store and a video store. Done on a no-budget budget,this absurdist, slice-of-life, desultorily conversational and pointedly scatological "Clerks" was a hit, understandaly,though I was not the only critic to have several reservations about it. "Mallrats," done in the same spirit and with some of the same actors (Smith himself playing Silent Bob), is a flop.
It has something of a plot,vague and disjointed. T.S. (note the scatology of the name) (Jeremy London) has been dumped by his fiancee Brandi (Claire Forlani) for reasons too dull to mention. Brodie (Jason Lee), has been dumped by his girl Rene (Shannen Doherty) because,in bed, he is more interested in video-games than in sex. (Let's not even talk about love). The two men (did I say "men"? - never mind) find solace in doing what any red-blooded idiots will do. They go to the Mall. There, a subplot has them trying to sabotage that day's forthcoming game show,a kind of Dating Game, which is produced by Brandi's father, a youthful but bald creep.
The movie's comedy is below sitcom level, the dialogue, action and characters are of no interest, except perhaps to people under 20 with a mental age under 6. Since those people neither read film reviews nor put any credence in adult judgments, "Mallrats" might just have a career, even though it is exceptionally thin in every way.
The best that can be said is that, at the mall, Smith places a fat young man who stares at a sort of pointillist painting which, looked at with concentration, reveals a sailboat. But the poor fellow stands there and stands there and can't see a thing. Not a bad gag, though thoroughly milked.
Another "funny" item is about a 15-year old girl who is presumably so bright that she's a senior. She is writing a book about orgasms and researches by sleeping with men right and left while videotaping the activities. Her language is raunchy even by Kevin Smith standards, standards that use the alphabet from the A-word to perhaps some Z-word.
The fun and games are uncoordinated and slipshod. The film might have used updated Marx Brothers strategies instead of applying a para-"Clerks" style which relies on frail crutches instead of tempo, energy or the occasional witticism.
There are also other inconsistencies. In her letter of resignation,so to speak, Brodie's girl lists his defects. Brodie thinks that "callow" is the only nice thing in the letter, yet he will occasionally use a hi-fallutin word. We also think for a long time that Brodie and Co. are high-schoolers, but are told at the end that they are college students.
Somehow, comic-book author and icon Stan Lee shows up, gives sage advice to Brodie. It might have been amusing. It is merely artificial.
Here and there are tentative take-offs, but these do not take off.