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The Evolution of Mallrats: The Blade Runner of Comedies

March 22, 2015

Mallrats movie posters

 

Being a fan of Kevin Smith is kind of like riding an ever evolving roller coaster. There are ups, down, turns, twists, flips and more of the same. I’ve been a Smith fan for twenty years and I’ve read his books, listened to his podcasts/commentaries and even supported Tusk. He made a name for himself by maxing out his credit cards and directing a grainy black and white film that felt totally fresh. Inspired by Slacker and Reservoir Dogs Smith centered his debut 1994 film around two men and a convenience store. Clerks introduced the world to Death Star contractor death, snowballs and Jay and Silent Bob. Since then he has directed 10 films and recently announced he was making a sequel to his second film Mallrats.

 

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20 years ago Kevin Smith unleashed Mallrats onto the populace. The follow-up to Clerks expanded the View Askew Universe and featured two men milling around a mall dealing with relationship troubles, pretzels and Michael Rooker. It was initially ignored ($2 million at box-office) but has since accrued a cult following of epic proportions. The film exploded on VHS/DVD and was discovered by Smith fans and lovers of comic books.

The main reason I like this film is because of Brodie Bruce (Jason Lee). Brodie was a full-on blowhard who was aware of his insane love of comic books and Sega. He was an outsider who hung out with outsiders and engaged in things that no nerds had done before. Brodie revolutionized what a comic book lover was while still feeling familiar (anti-social, lived with his mom and let his interests define him). However, he was unapologetic, sorta cool and self-aware.

 

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Mallrats

 

You can tell Mallrats is a cult classic because of the press surrounding the sequel announcement. When Smith alluded to it on Twitter the internet world sorta blew up. He has a massive online following that is split between love/hate and they all had an opinion on the sequel. I recently listened to the Mallrats commentary and in it they called the film “the Blade Runner of comedy.” Blade Runner is a much better film but I get the point. Mallrats was ahead of its time as it discussed Superman having sex, featured a Stan Lee cameo and gave Kevin Smith a stable of actors to work with (Affleck!). I love how uneven it is and after listening to the commentary I understand why it feels so choppy (Smith didn’t edit it), oddly performed (Lots of weed) and scattershot (it was extremely rushed and edited). Perfection it ain’t but it was a glimpse into what was to come and forced Smith to go back to his indie roots and find success with Chasing Amy and Dogma.

Love or hate Kevin Smith he is a self-made machine who has had an eclectic career. He has a massive following because he appealed to the loyal comic/sci-fi/slacker fans early on. He was one of the first directors to feature grown men discussing comic books. They weren’t stereotypical pale/skinny nerds who fit into a neat clichéd box. They were guys who played hockey, got stoned and had attractive girlfriends (common theme).Very rarely did they have anything figured out and for the most part were massive turds. However, they come out the other end as a more mature and sociable comic book fan/slacker.

 

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Mallrats attracted diehard fans because the underdogs were cool and big jerky fellas were made very uncomfortable. I worked comic cons for four years and I’ve witnessed how passionate comic fans are towards things they love. Kevin Smith and his films Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy made the comic world kinda cool. That is why in the peaks (Chasing Amy) and valleys (Cop Out) of Smith’s career his fans have remained loyal and passionate. Fans love it when they feel like they are part of the process. For instance, Firefly and Serenity are a favorite amongst fans because they feel responsible for bringing it back. The massive DVD sales of Firefly allowed Serenity to be made and fans take that as a victory. I think Mallrats has remained popular because of its vocal fan base and that is why the sequel announcement has been so widely covered.

After an AV Club article entitled  “Kevin Smith confirms he’s making Mallrats 2 for the amusement of Kevin Smith” hit the web he revealed why he is making the sequel:

Jim Jacks (producer) never fucking lost faith. Even when I would kick Mallrats and make fun of it, Jacks was always the guy going “No man. Know what would be funny and what’s gonna redeem us? Mallrats 2: Die Hard In A Mall.” So it was one of those things that was an ongoing theme in his life.

As I said, he passed away a year ago. I had lost touch with him for quite a few years before that and this was the biggest fucking fan of movies you’ve ever known in your life. And Clerks was the thing that kicked off my career but Mallrats brought me into a complete different world and that movie doesn’t get made without this dude at Universal going, “Let’s make it, let’s make it.” So I felt real shitty about missing the last years of his life and I met some people who were like, “We ate with Jim every fucking Thursday night and he still talked about you.” I hadn’t seen him in years and he was still talking about me and that movie. So a year ago I was sitting here talking about this shit and I was like “I wanna honor the man in some way” and this is how we’re gonna do it. We’re gonna finally make the movie I wish to Christ I made when he was living, man. So we’re finally going to make Mallrats 2.

Smith also had this to say about the sequel on Tucson radio station Rock 102 KFMA:

It kind of came out of nowhere,” Smith continued. “Lately I’ve been doing this thing where I’m like ‘Do you want to do what’s good for your career or do you just want to have fun?’ Nobody’s clamoring for a Mallrats sequel, but I would love to make one. It’s been like 20 years.

I have no clue how the sequel will turn out but I am stoked to learn how Brodie is dealing with the success of the comic book genre. I like that Kevin Smith is doing what he is passionate about because it leads to some very fun experiences.

 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Stu permalink
    March 23, 2015 4:37 am

    I’ve always loved Mallrats since first catching it on DVD in the mid-90s. I know he hasn’t quite delivered on that early promise but I’m still curious to see what Smith will do with a sequel.

    • March 23, 2015 10:16 am

      I’m wondering how it will work. I’d like to see Brodie complaining about how he liked comic books before they were cool. Definitely curious.

      • Stu permalink
        March 23, 2015 11:23 am

        I dread to think how Brodie is dealing with middle age!

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