“THEY’RE NOT THERE TO SHOP. THEY’RE NOT THERE THERE TO WORK. THEY’RE JUST THERE.
Following the smash success of his first feature, Clerks, Kevin Smith returned with Mallrats. Spawning a raft of characters and in-jokes that Smith would carry throughout his career, the film continued the one-of-a-kind comedic world known as the View Askewniverse.
Simultaneously dumped by their girlfriends, comic book obsessive Brodie (Jason Lee) and best friend TS (Jeremy London) plan to ease the pain of their losses by taking take a trip to the local mall. Amongst shoppers, they discover the mall is being used as the venue for a dating show, in which TS’s girlfriend Brandi is the star. Hatching a plan to win back their significant others, Brodie and TS enlist the help of professional delinquents Jay and Silent Bob to hijack the gameshow in a bid to win back Brandi. Meanwhile, Brodie carries out his own mission to make good his relationship with Rene (Shannen Doherty), who has attracted the attentions of his nemesis Shannon (Ben Affleck).
Featuring a cast including Joey Lauren Adams, Ben Affleck, who would go on to be recurring collaborators in Smith’s movies, Mallrats celebrates its 25th Anniversary in this limited edition set boasting a brand new restoration and hours of bonus content.
Arrow Video gives Kevin Smith’s sophomore feature, Mallrats, a brand-new 2-disc limited edition Blu-ray that features three versions of the film: the original theatrical version, the 2005 extended version, and then the family friend-lier television version. All of the versions are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The theatrical version appears on the first dual-layer disc, the other two on the second dual-layer disc. All three have been given 1080p/24hz high-definition encodes.
Arrow has conducted all new 4K restorations for the theatrical and extended versions and they both look damn good. Though this is a big studio film (compared to Smith’s previous film Clerks and his next film Chasing Amy) I wasn’t holding out much hope with how this would turn out, but it ends up just further showing that a good 4K restoration can do wonders for just about any film. This is easily the sharpest and cleanest I've seen the film, those details just popping from the screen, right from the textures of Jason Lee’s corduroy jacket to the stubble on Michael Rooker’s shaved head. The film also has a very fine grain structure and it’s perfectly rendered here, absolutely clean and natural. The impoved level of detail probably comes down to Arrow having scanned the negative for both versions, though they note they had to use an interpositive for the additional/alternate scenes in the extended version. For the extended version, these jumps between sources are not obvious.
Outside of a couple of stray marks (that are incredibly minor) there is no damage to speak of, the restoration work giving a nice new polish to the film; I really doubt it has ever looked as clean as it does here, even theatrically. Colours also have a nice fresh pop to them, with the pinks found in the game show set of the finale being particularly striking. Those pinks have also never looked as good as they do here.
Arrow has also worked on restoring the television version, though were limited to available materials. Most of this version has been constructed using the new 4K restoration, but footage that is unique to the television version has been taken from video tape. These sequences don’t look particularly good, and the jump from the new restoration to video footage is jarring, but it ultimately is what it is.
All in all, the final presentation looks remarkable and I’m still surprised how well this turned out. Though I could see the economics behind it being questionable, it is actually a bit of a shame Arrow didn’t feel the need to throw out a 4K UHD disc for the film as well. I can’t believe I’m saying this over a Kevin Smith film, especially this one, but Mallrats would look amazing on the format. It’s an impressive looking restoration.
(Screen grabs were taken from the Theatrical Version.)
Arrow includes two audio tracks for the theatrical version: a stereo soundtrack presented in 2.0 lossless PCM, and a 5.1 surround soundtrack in DTS-HD MA. The extended version only presents the 5.1 soundtrack while the television version only provides a stereo soundtrack in 2.0 Dolby Digital.
All of them sound fine though are ultimately held back by a limited sound mix. The film is dialogue heavy so the focus is on that and it all sounds clean and clear, directed to the fronts of course. Music and some sound effects expand out to the surrounds in the 5.1 track, but nothing of note ever really sticks out. The track, for all presentations (even the television one), is dynamic at least.
Arrow goes all out with this new 2-disc limited edition, porting over most of the material from previous editions and adding on some excellent new material. They first carry over the original audio commentary recorded back around 1998/1999 for Universal’s Collector’s Edition DVD, featuring director Kevin Smith, producer Scott Mosier, archivist Vincent Pereira, and then actors Jason Lee, Ben Affleck and Jason Mewes (the commentary was also to appear on a Signature Series LaserDisc, as mentioned in this track, though I don’t believe that ever got released). As an older track there are some outdated references, and on a couple of occasions a beeper goes off instead of a cell phone, but that doesn’t really harm it much and actually adds a bit to the overall charm. The film was a bomb upon its initial release but was growing a bit of a fan base at the time of the recording (that fan base has actually gotten bigger since), so the participants treat it as an opportunity to not only talk about the production, but reflect on some of the aspects that probably hurt the film. Some of it definitely came down to this film being Smith’s first big Hollywood film and his unfamiliarity with the how studios worked, along with executives more than likely building his expectations. Another reason could have been related to how he had to cut out an entire subplot after a poor test screening, giving the film a rougher edge than it probably should have. Poor reviews also didn’t help, and then there was the fact that Gramercy Pictures just didn’t know how to market the film. All of this is touched upon with a good dose of self-deprecating humour from everyone, and in between this they do talk about how the production came together while also touching on the more technical details.
As I mentioned, though, the participants do go off track, and it’s quite often. Sadly, a lot of the time it’s when the a topic gets interesting and then someone shoots in with something else, cutting that other person off. I felt Mosier probably took the brunt of this, and sometimes he’s able to get back on track, though a couple of times he states he forgets what he was even talking about. Lee doesn’t talk a lot, sadly, but Affleck gets in there a good number of times, thorwing in some shots when needed. Despite any of the track's shortcomings it’s still incredibly entertaining, and there were plenty of moments where I found myself completely engaged with it, even bringing out my geeky side. For example, my nostalgia came to the forefront when Mewes tries to recall the name of the show that Sven Thorsen (the security guard in the film) was on, and I found myself becoming irritated that no one else knew what he was talking about, even making fun of him, and it took everything I had not to scream out “Captain Power you dumbasses!!” Christ!
At any rate…
Arrow has recorded some new video material for this edition, starting with a number of new interviews featuring Smith. Smith first offers a new 12-minute introduction for the film, which can be played optionally with the main feature. In it, Smith (who I must say is looking to be in good health) talks about his joy for how the film has found a new life after the devastating disappointment he experienced around its original reception on release. The movie was trashed, pretty mercilessly as I recall, though I do remember it finding its fans on home video. I never saw the film until around 2000 or so, but I remember my friends talking non-stop about this movie after renting it, and I can’t imagine they were the only ones to have been fans. Smith doesn’t really get into how the film may have found an audience on video, but gets into the fact that the recent rise in popularity of super heroes and comic books has played some part in it since the film is completely focused on comic book fans and pop culture geeks. Smith has a tendency to ramble on and he does so here, but it’s obviously just out of excitement that the film is getting a second life and an Arrow edition on top of that.
Smith then offers an appreciation for producer Jim Jacks, who does get a lot of mention in the features. Here Smith talks about Jacks’ career, from discovering the Coen brothers to his success with The Mummy franchise, and what an impact the producer had on his life and career. Despite Mallrats bombing, Jacks always had faith in Smith and he really helped him work his way through the studio system, teaching him a lot. Smith also talks about the man’s love for movies, which included a passion for LaserDisc collecting. It’s a passionate 13-minute tribute that I think really comes from Smith’s heart (and bonus points to Smith for reminding me that the film Juwanna Mann exists).
Smith also sits for a new interview to talk about the film’s production with the 30-minute My Mallrat Memories. While it’s a discussion about the film’s origins and its production I was impressed that very little of the material here repeats anything mentioned anywhere else, and if he does repeat something he ends up expanding on the topic, like where he talks about how the studio did not want Jason Mewes at all for the film. He also talks a lot about the casting process, which sounded a little insane, and he mentions a few surprise auditions (Reese Witherspoon??) as well as how Stan Lee came on board. The stuff around Stan Lee is also pretty endearing, especially in the reasons behind why Smith had to give Lee an additional scene.
I was also pleased to see that Arrow managed to get a new interview with Jason Mewes. Mewes—also looking to be doing well—sits for 10-minutes to talk about Clerks, which didn’t seem like a big deal to him at the time (he never quit his roofing job), and the bizarreness of not only landing a role in a Hollywood film, but also around the fact he had to compete with other actors (in this case Breckin Meyer and Seth Green) to play himself. He also talks about the television version of the film, which found most of his dialogue dubbed over by someone else, and explains how he doesn’t remember why he didn’t do it, though suggests drug use probably had something to do with it. It’s a shame he doesn’t sit for longer to discuss everything else he’s done, but it’s a decent reflection. There’s also a 6-minute audio interview with director of photography David Klein, who recounts his first experience on a Hollywood film and his other work with Smith, which was interrupted after getting thrown to the curb, along with Joey Lauren Adams, by Harvey Weinstein.
Arrow then provides a new 10-minute documentary on the making of the film, though presented in an unusual way: Hollywood of the North is a 10-minute feature presenting animated representations (in a comic book format naturally) of production assistant Mark Har, prop builder Gordon Smuder, location scout Bob Medcraft, and background actor Jessica Sibinski (whose back we get to see in the food court). The first three worked in the film industry in Minnesota, which saw an uptick in films being shot there thanks to a tax credit. We get a brief bit of information about this and then details about the production from these members of the cast and crew. Medcraft, who had to deal with everything around the mall location (including the owners who did not like that Shannen Doherty walked her dog inside the mall), has some pretty interesting stories to share, while also explaining the full job of a location scout.
The rest of the material on the first disc are previously produced features for other editions. There is a 62-minute feature around the film’s deleted scenes featuring Smith and Pereira. The two talk about the material and why it was cut, with the primary reason being the results of a poor test screening leading to a desire to get the 122-minute film down to something in the 90-minute range. To accomplish this an entire subplot had to be removed, and unfortunately it was one that was pretty entrenched in the narrative of the film. This feature—which first appeared on the original Universal DVD—is a bit redundant because that longer version does appear on this edition (on disc 2), but it’s still worthwhile because there is some material that doesn’t appear in either version, and the two explain how many scenes had to be altered in the finished edit (primarily by looping dialogue) to cut out any reference to the abandoned subplot. At the very least, fast-forwarding through to watch the comments from the two may prove worthwhile.
Following this are about 8-minutes’ worth of outtakes, which consist of alternate takes and bloopers (usually someone laughing), with Affleck’s improvisations around his character’s run-in with the police being the funniest.
Arrow then includes about 9-minutes’ worth of cast interviews filmed on-set and featuring Smith, Mosier, and members of the cast including Jason Lee, Jeremy London, Shannen Doherty, Claire Forlani, and Michael Rooker. These were obviously recorded for advertising material and don’t really offer too much.
A bit better from the archives is the 22-minute making-of Erection of an Epic, made for the 2005 DVD edition of the film. It’s a quick look at the film’s initial failure (with critics Kenneth Turan and Janet Maslin opening the feature with their harsh reviews for the film) and eventual cult status, and it does this all through interviews with the likes of Lee, London, Affleck, Smith, and others (even Stan Lee). Following this is a 9-minute Q&A with Kevin Smith, also made for that DVD, which features Smith answering questions around what it’s like to participate in a DVD for a film years after it was made. A lot of it self-deprecating (at this point Smith is still trying to play off the failure of the film, more than likely a defense mechanism) but he mentions the cast reunion that was recorded for the 2005 DVD edition, which is oddly missing on this edition. I haven’t seen it so can’t speak as to any reason why it has been excluded.
The disc then closes with a music video for The Goop’s cover of “Build Me Up Buttercup” —featuring Jay and Silent Bob showing how to make a music video if you can’t get Spike Jonze—and the film’s original trailer.
Disc 2, which I assume will be exclusive to this limited edition, then features the alternate versions of the film. First is the extended edition, created by Smith and team for the 2005 DVD edition of the film. This version (which Smith and Mosier explain was an experiment in the optional archival introduction that plays before the film) is that alternate version that Smith and gang talk about in the commentary and the feature around the deleted scenes. Running over 120-minutes, this longer version has the added subplot around how London’s character was mistaken—through a series of unfortunate and contrived events—as a would-be assassin of the governor, and also adds in an additional bit around a news crew. There are a few other additions and the original dialogue has been re-inserted.
This version does run on too long and I can see why initial test screenings went south: the opening goes on far too long, it takes a quarter of the film before they get to the mall, and the whole subplot adds very little. Still, this opening is less awkward than that tacked on opening that replaced all of this.
And on that, much to my surprise I actually thought the editing in this version was better, with individual sequences feeling as though they’ve been edited a little more tightly. Despite a professional editor being brought in for the original version, there was always this awkwardness that isn’t as prominent here. I can’t say whether what helped was that Smith just used better takes, or that dropping the filler/alternate scenes helped, or trimming a split-second here or there did, or Smith actually picked up some things over the years (despite him insisting he hasn’t learned anything), but whatever the reason the film manages to have a more polished feel at the very least.
The television version is also featured here, and as mentioned in the picture portion of this review, Arrow has given it its own restoration of sorts, using footage from the 4K restoration, though have to use video footage for moments exclusive to this version. Running 85-minutes it’s an interesting mess in and of itself thanks to the fact it has to cut out all of the film’s crassness, which makes up a majority of it. And this doesn’t just come down only to language as they also have to change some plot elements that couldn’t be dropped entirely. For example, that sex book that Renee Humphrey’s character is working on stays in place since it plays into Affleck’s come-uppance, but all references to sex are changed to “sessions,” as though she only talked to her subjects. Of course, the big reveal at the end around Affleck’s character comes off non-sensical since a more toned down video plays. They also insert scenes that appear in the extended version to fill time after cutting out other scenes, but these make very little sense because they actually reference material that’s only in the extended version and never shows up here. Amusingly this version keeps the topless psychic, though zooms in above Priscilla Barnes’ chest for the whole sequence, which of course cuts out the whole reason for Lee’s disgusted reaction. The opening monologue (about a guy getting a cat stuck in a place it shouldn’t) has been excised and we’re treated to basic footage of the mall instead (they keep the store name “Rug Munchers” by the way).
There’s so much more material to go on about here (the opening credits are altered, the “stink hand” explanation is removed, though still referenced elsewhere), and that actually makes the version a bit charming. Still, the best and most infamous alteration to this version, as Smith mentions in the new optional introduction he provides here, is that most (not all) of Jason Mewes’ dialogue has been dubbed over by someone that in no way sounds like him, and I confess I laughed pretty hard at this. It’s not the version of the film anybody would stick with, but it’s a great little curio and I’m so happy Arrow has included it.
Arrow then includes a few other features. There’s a rather cringey 4-minute soundtrack EPK featuring Smith and Mosier plugging all of the music that appears in the film, along with 2-hour’s (!) worth of dailies. I only sampled the dailies, which come from incredibly rough VHS footage (it’s near-impossible to see), but it’s filled with alternate takes. The longest collection seems to run around the sequence in the lingerie shop between Lee, London, and Joey Lauren Adams (who I just sadly realized does not appear in the supplements anywhere), and then there’s alternate improvisations and some other random stuff, like multiple takes of the camera zooming in on the pin that Silent Bob is trying to pull out to collapse the set.
The disc then closes with a gallery featuring around 147 behind-the-scenes and production photos, along with all of the comic book art that was used in the film’s opening credits. This limited edition also comes with a booklet featuring an essay by Philip Kemp, who questions whether they film should be considered a sophomore slump for Smith, along with a fold-out recreation of the schematics Jay and Bob created for their plan to destroy the television show set.
I’m unsure why the reunion wasn’t included as it seems it would have been a no-brainer, but I can't say it's really needed. Despite that missing feature Arrow still provides a very satisfying collection of material that offers a rich look at the film’s production while also offering up a reassessment of sorts, even if this aspect comes more from the film’s director.
I’m sure Smith is absolutely thrilled with this edition of the film. Arrow goes all out by packing on a number of extras, multiple versions of the film, and a spectacular looking presentation. It’s probably the best edition I’ve come across for one of Smith’s films (and he usually puts in his all with these things) and it’s an easy recommendation for fans of Smith and/or the film.