'Mallrats' - the Film

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The View Askewniverse Films of Kevin Smith:

Clerks | Mallrats | Chasing Amy | Dogma | Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back | Clerks II | Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

Mallrats (1995) is the second film in Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse films. It is set in a shopping centre in New Jersey, the day before the events of Clerks. This 91-minute film was aimed at a younger audience than Clerks, late teens rather than people in their early twenties. It nevertheless contains many of the key Kevin Smith trademarks, including Star Wars and Jaws references. It is also the first film in the series to show the slapstick side of Silent Bob and Jay, the juvenile delinquent drug dealers.

Ratted Out: The Plot

After TS Quint inadvertently causes the death of Julie Dwyer1, his girlfriend Brandi Svenning agrees to appear on her father Jared Svenning's initial Blind Date knock-off television programme. Svenning hopes to impress television executives enough for them to commission a long-running series. This is on the day that TS had arranged for Brandi to travel to Florida with him, where he had planned to propose on Universal Studios' Jaws ride just as the shark attacks. Rightly guessing that Svenning hoped to auction her off to a better boyfriend to keep them apart, TS's anger causes an argument which results in his being dumped.

Meanwhile TS's best friend Brodie is also dumped by his girlfriend Rene for a vast shopping list of reasons including lack of both ambition and libido. Brodie and TS head to the Mall to cheer themselves up, only to discover that that is where the game show is being filmed and that Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man etc, is visiting. Brodie also learns that Shannon, the manager of Fashionable Male menswear shop, plans to take advantage of Rene while she is on the rebound and prey on her vulnerability. Brodie asks loafers Silent Bob and Jay to sabotage the game show; their every attempt to destroy the stage ends in failure.

Can Brodie and TS regain the affections of their true loves? Will Miss Ivannah the topless fortune-teller show them what they need to see? What is more uncomfortable than the back of a Volkswagen? Can Gwen change in peace? Will Willam ever see the picture of a yacht hidden in the Magic Eye picture he has been staring at all day?

Dramatis Personæ

Actors and characters in Bold appear in other films in the View Askewniverse. The main characters are introduced with artworks styled as Comic book covers with the following titles.

CharacterComic CoverActor
Rene MosierExplosive IssueShannen Doherty
Brandi Svenning, TS's ex-girlfriendThe Last Babe on Earth Claire Forlani
Brodie Bruce, Sega-playing comic-book nerdBrodiemanJason Lee
TS2 Quint, Brodie's best friend who wants to marry BrandiDefective Comics Jeremy London
Shannon Hamilton, clothes shop managerButtman Adventures Ben Affleck
Gwen Turner, TS's girlfriend before BrandiGwen 13Joey Lauren Adams
Tricia Jones, 15-year-old sex researcherWeapon seX Renée Humphrey
Jay, sabotaging youth} Dork KnightsJason Mewes
Silent Bob, quiet youth trying to develop Jedi powersKevin Smith
Jared Svenning, Brandi's TS-hating gameshow-running fatherAngry Pop Michael Rooker
Miss Ivannah, topless fortune-tellerFantastic Two Priscilla Barnes
Stan Lee, most influential comic creatorThe ManStan Lee
La Fours, Mall security chiefIncredible Bulk Sven Thorsen
Willam, man staring at a Magic Eye pictureEthan Suplee
Roddy, Svenning's assistantScott Mosier
Walt 'Fan Boy' GroverWalter Flanagan
Steve Dave Pulasti Bryan Johnson
Gill Hicks, Game Show contestantBrian O'Halloran
Bob Summers, Game Show Host Art James

Heading to the Mall: Making Mallrats

Following the success of Clerks, Smith was approached by Universal Pictures who wished to make a teenage sex comedy in the same vein as Porky's (1981). In order to make a film for the late-teens audience, Smith was instructed to have the main characters in their late teens, to include frontal female nudity and to cut out the swearing. Universal also insisted that it was impossible to make the film for less than $6 million. When Smith said that he had made Clerks for 0.46% of that budget, he was told that had Universal bought the rights to Clerks they would have reshot and refilmed his debut film.

One of the changes that Universal wanted to make to Kevin Smith's initial draft was to have a bigger, more expensive opening sequence. Smith subsequently wrote a more ambitious opening involving Svenning arranging for the Governor of New Jersey (Elizabeth Ashley) to visit the school that TS and Brandi attend in the hope of getting government investment, only for the Governor to be accidentally shot by TS. Though it explained why Svenning hates TS it didn't work as well as a simpler discussion between TS and Brandi in which they break up and so was excised from the final cut. The governor is nevertheless mentioned a couple of times in the finished film. The Governor of New Jersey would appear in Dogma, though played by a different actress.

Casting a Net

Universal interfered with many of the intended casting decisions, wanting to recast both Silent Bob and Jay. Though they considered Silent Bob a minor character and reluctantly allowed Smith to play him they were particularly keen to replace Jason Mewes with Seth Green. Smith insisted that Jason Mewes played Jay, even though Universal refused to pay for him to attend rehearsals, the travel expenses for Mewes to go to Minnesota where filming took place or for his accommodation there. They also insisted on the right to replace him if they were disappointed in his performance.

Smith had originally cast Joey Lauren Adams as Rene. He was forced to give her a smaller role, however, in order to cast a known actress; Shannen Doherty was the most famous person in the film, having starred in television such as Beverley Hills 90210 (1990-4). Similarly Smith had written TS with O'Halloran in mind but had been forced to recast, with the returning character of Willam also now played by someone else. Nevertheless, Mallrats helped launch the film careers of three of the cast. Ben Affleck3 became close friends with Smith but was worried that he would spend his life always being cast as the villain, leading Smith to promise to cast him as the hero in his next film. Jason Lee was a professional skateboarder who was given his first acting break and has since appeared in numerous films; Jason Lee's wife Carmen Lee is the girl on the posters outside the 'Popular Girl' clothes shop. Stan Lee followed his cameo appearance in this film by becoming notorious for appearing in numerous comic book adaptations. Unusually it is Stan Lee, and not Silent Bob, who delivers the words of wisdom that helps the hero realise the importance of true love, save the day and get the girl.

Rattling the Sabre

Although filmed in a genuine shopping centre, the Eden Prairie Center in Minneapolis, the shops used for filming were created by repurposing vacant shops within the centre. When hiding in the bookshop, Bob is hiding behind book Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes: A Guided Tour Across a Decade of American Independent Cinema by John Pierson. Pierson had been instrumental in getting Clerks seen, submitting it to the Sundance Film Festival. Brodie's home is entirely decorated with posters of either Marvel comics in honour of Stan Lee or posters of Universal films, including Tremors (1990). Numerous references to Smith's first film abound, including TS picking up a Clerks hat at the flea market. Brian O'Halloran cameos as Gill Hicks, Dante's cousin. Tricia Jones is the sister of Heather Jones, a minor character in Clerks. Gwen Turner confesses to having had sex with Rick Derris, another character from the earlier film.

Brodie Bruce and Quint are names in Jaws4. Tragically, Universal Studios' Jaws attraction has long since closed and been replaced. Rene Mosier was loosely inspired by Scott Mosier's younger sister Kristen, who Smith briefly dated and who briefly appears as a waitress in Chasing Amy. Writer/director/actress Guinevere Turner inspired the character name 'Gwen Turner', played by Joey Lauren Adams. Kevin Smith and producer Scott Mosier had befriended her at the 1994 Sundance Festival where she was promoting her independent film Go Fish, which she had starred in and co-written with her then partner Rose Troche. When Mallrats was in post-production Smith and Adams began a relationship. He has since said that the momentary glimpse in the film of her topless is one of his greatest regrets as a filmmaker, however he had been contracted to include female nudity.

The film had its premiere at ComicCon, following which several comic artists who had enjoyed Clerks asked if they could provide artwork for the film, which led to the comic book-themed opening sequence. The film's end sequence included a number of 'what happened next' to the various characters, with one jokingly showing Jay, Silent Bob and an orangutan named Suzanne walking off into the distance together.

The film was distributed by Gramercy Pictures, a company joint-owned by PolyGram and Universal Pictures. Yet their original marketing campaign did not quite seem to know who to target the film to. Mallrats flopped at the cinemas, but successfully found its audience in the home video market.

Review: Mallrats Rated

Though a film aimed at a younger audience than Clerks, this film shows Kevin Smith's talents on a larger scale. The more juvenile-delinquent Jay and Silent Bob settle the characters more, giving them more to do than merely lean against a wall while interacting aggressively with passers-by. Silent Bob's slapstick facial expressions fully emerge for the first time in this film, ensuring that he steals every scene he is in without needing to say a word.

The film has a much more comic book sensibility that pervades throughout, even from the very appropriate opening credits. Numerous comic characters are constantly discussed in the film, particularly by Brodie, whereas Jay and Silent Bob undertake their sabotaging mission with hare-brained schemes right out of comic books. Bob dresses with a Batman-like helmet and winged cloak, carrying devices to help ascend buildings, while Jay utters a catchphrase Snoochie Boochies! It is no wonder that in the next film in the series, Chasing Amy, these two characters have a comic book series loosely based on them.

While there are several strong female characters, the film fails the Bechdel test. Of the characters introduced in this film, only Brodie Bruce would go on to play more than a cameo role in later films in the View Askewniverse. Although the film ends implying that he would go on to enjoy a television career, in later films he is seen running his own comic book shop in this very Mall.

Once again there are several jokes for the eagle-eyed in the background, for example the Mall contains shops labelled Burning Flesh Tanning and Rug Munchers Carpets. As with other films in the series, a highlight is when Silent Bob speaks. Having spent the whole film trying to develop Jedi powers, he appears to be rewarded for his patience at a key moment, and quotes Yoda, 'Adventure, excitement, a Jedi craves not these things'.

1When he learnt that she was appearing on a television programme, TS remarked that the camera adds ten pounds. This led Julie to rush to the swimming pool in the hope of losing weight through exercise and she died of an embolism on her 698th lap. Hers is the funeral that Dante attends in Clerks.2What 'TS' actually stands for is never revealed in the film.3Affleck is portrayed as 'Buttman' in the opening credits and would later play Batman in the DC Expanded Universe (2016+) having already been Daredevil (2003).4Brodie and Quint are characters while Spielberg nicknamed the mechanical shark prop 'Bruce' after his lawyer.

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