We Miss the 90s: Mallrats

In this regular column, JT Rozzero and Jen Engle usually exchange emails reminiscing about the greatest decade in history: the 1990s. JT & Jen have been friends since 1997 and have been trading emails and instant messages about 90s nostalgia since the day they met. However, with Ms. Engle on sabbatical, Cowboy Morrissette and Andrew Flanagan have stepped up to take over the reigns! But they then got busy with their own respective duties, so in stepped Chris Jordan! If you have suggestions for future topics, please email us at the addresses below!

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JT: Chris! Welcome back! Back to back installments? Done in quick succession? We are on a fucking roll now, son.

Last time we chatted, we reminisced about the greatness of malls…so why not stay in that neighborhood? This time around, we are going to go a bit more narrow and focus on a cult classic straight out of 1995: Kevin Smith’s Mallrats.

This was Smith’s second piece in the View Askewniverse, following up 1994’s Clerks. And let us start there. When did you discover Smith’s films? Was it in real time? Did you see Clerks in 94 or Mallrats in 95? Will Gmail autocorrect Mallrats as Mallards throughout this whole damn article? Give me answers!

Chris: Rozzero! What’s up, Yankees fan? You set me up like Dellin Betances, you know that? I had a friend named Mark who was a huge Kevin Smith mark. I saw Clerks in ’95 when it came out on VHS. He was all like “You gotta see this movie, bunghole!”.So I watched the movie and it was this black and white, dialogue-driven piece with no plot whatsoever. I think it was the first time I had watched a movie with no defined plot, as I was not into indie cinema at the time. The dialogue was hilarious, however, and Clerks was enough for me to want to see Mallrats. Man, I’m going to keep you in suspense about how I felt about this movie…

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JT: I had not seen or really heard much of Clerks at all before Mallrats hit my radar. It was Josh Richer that filled me in on the greatness of this film and made me watch it. And when I watched in 1996sh… I just didn’t really get it. And for years I thought maybe it sucked. And then I rediscovered it much later and loved it. And will rewatch it whenever it is on.

That isn’t to say that I think it is a good movie, per se. But as is evidenced by this column, I am sucker for 90s nostalgia, and that movie is loaded with it:

The soundtrack
The clothes
The MALL (Back to back columns focusing on mall settings, such a big part of 90s culture…)
The game show in the mall
Everything else

I need to know how you felt. No more suspense!

And then we can break this thing down…

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Chris: I saw Mallrats on HBO or one of those channels about a year after it came out. Keep in mind that, while I liked Clerks, it didn’t blow me away and turn me into a super-duper Kevin Smith mark or anything like that. So I wasn’t stoked for Mallrats or anything, but was still curious to see what Kevin Smith could do with a bigger budget.

I was underwhelmed. Like you, I saw it while living the 90s. I was one of those slackers that Smith was targeting. So the soundtrack and the clothes didn’t bring any nostalgia with it because I was there. I have not seen this movie in quite some time, so I have gone ahead and found a copy to rewatch in order to give myself a refresher. I had a hard time staying awake for this. So I think this look back might be more of a point/counterpoint conversation.

JT: The first Smith movie I saw in real time was Dogma, I believe, and we can touch on that and the rest of the Askewniverse later on in this piece.

I do enjoy how this whole movie is set across the span of one day at the mall. It was a neat touch and so much is packed in but done in a relatively believable way. Of course, as with most Smith movies, the dialogue borders on the absurd considering the supposed age range of the characters. And I guess we can start there: does the forced dialogue mess up the movie for you? Sometimes I can’t even keep up with the shit they are trying to squeeze in at a rapid fire pace. Jeremy London mushmouthing ten lines of dialogue into sixteen seconds at a pace like a WCW lucha opener definitely takes me out the flow at times.

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And speaking of London, I guess we start with the cast? I want to save the characters for later, so let’s just talk about the people behind them. We can start with the “stars” and then move to the Smith loyalists.

Start with London, Doherty and Affleck, talk about their relative places in pop culture at the time and whether or not this movie was below, above or just about right where they should be in 1995.

Chris: A question I have is this: Do people really talk like this? The trouble I have with dialogue in most of Smith’s movies is that it’s not relatable to me. They speak quickly and the retorts come at a brisk pace. I think a lot of it may have to do with the timing of the actors. Most of the cast, at this point, were early in their careers and probably needed more refining. So the delivery of the dialogue seemed a little off-putting to me.

Now sometimes I get confused between Jason London, who appeared in Dazed and Confused,and Jeremy London, who appeared in this film. The guys are brothers, but I guess I thought they were the same guy back in 1995. Not so. I think Jason went on to have the better career, mainly because I’ve seen him more thanks to gloriously awful movies made for SyFy. I think this would be Jeremy’s best known film role.

Shannen Doherty was probably a huge coup for Kevin Smith. She had just done about five seasons as Brenda Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210, which I’m sure is a future topic. I have never been a huge fan of Doherty, mainly because of her resting bitch face. She seemed too big for this movie, however. It was distracting for me.

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Affleck was still persona non grata in Hollywood at this point. He played an asshole in School Ties and an asshole in Dazed and Confused, and not surprisingly, he plays an asshole in Mallrats. Ben Affleck is good at playing assholes, apparently. Maybe because IT’S NOT MUCH OF A STRETCH! Ol’ Ben gets the last laugh on all of us, however, as most assholes always do (see Rodriguez, Alex).

JT: You are 100% right. Nobody talks like that. It is a weird Smith trait that slips into his movies but was really over the top in this one.

So, as you would expect, the movie is set around love on the rocks. T.S. loves himself some Brandi but her father (who may or may not be Ed Tarbox…for all you Rhode Islanders) is an asshole and is doing whatever he can to split them up.

He also happens to be a TV producer and is trying to get a new game show picked up. This always led me to so many questions… what network shows up at a mall and is hot in the pants for a hackneyed knockoff of the Dating Game? Is this public access? A local network? I mean, what is really the demand here?

T.S. ends up spending the day chasing Brandi with the help of his loyal vagabond friend Brodie, portrayed by the always Askew-present Jason Lee. Brodie has his own issues though. Ben Affleck, proprietor of the Fashionable Male, is trying to bang his girl (Brenda Walsh) in somewhere very uncomfortable.

The back of a Volkwagon, of course.

There is more, but we will get there. How do you rate these stories? Decent concepts? Would you have taken it in a different direction? Sounds like you enjoy Affleck in this role, but who really can care much about a man named Shannon? And speaking of Shannons, is this Shannen Doherty’s peak hotness? She got rough, fast. And WHY THIS GAME SHOW? WHO WANTS THIS?

Chris: The game show concept was really a contrived plot device. Why couldn’t these guys just have trouble with their girls, then relocate to the mall for the day to get over it, or plot some way to get them back? The game show wasn’t really necessary and came off as something that may have been suggested to Smith in order to justify the bigger budget.

As for Shannen Doherty: I was never really a fan. Too much bitch for my liking. I was more of a Claire Forlani guy, and I’m sorry to see that she did not become bigger than she ever really did. Although, a search of Google Images shows me that she is the unfortunate victim of some bad plastic surgery. There was nothing wrong with her before!!!

Eventually, for me, the whole thing just fell into tired cliches with the attempted sabotage of the game show, and the way everyone gets back together. This movie would have worked better as Clerks but In the mall. Same concept, no plot, just dialogue, set pieces and quirky characters. It’s not even important that the guys and girls get back together. This movie should just have been about the breakup, going to the mall with friends to get over it, and the interactions with other characters.

Again, BEN AFFLECK IS AWESOME AT PLAYING AN ASSHOLE!

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JT: Yeah I think we are in agreement over the hackneyed game show stuff. And Brenda was probably angry all the time because she couldn’t fuck Brandon. Now, we have another storyline to…ahem, touch upon, as we discuss this film. Tricia Jones. 15 year old high school student. And a published author of a book on orgasms. As part of her study for the book, she banged a whole bunch of older men, video taped it every time and took copious notes about how they rated at fornicating. And by the end of the movie she is shacking up with LaFours the security guard…who was pretty damn old! I mean… what the hell is going on here? Doesn’t this all seem… off?

In possibly the most entertaining story of the movie, Frankie from Boy Meets World is trying to see a sailboat in a magic eye picture. He really dove into the role and you could feel his anger and rage by the end when he finally snaps and destroys the thing.

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Thoughts on those… and of course… Jay and Silent Bob. I thought they were pretty good as plot movers in this one. There are times that they feel wedged in when it comes to other movies but here felt pretty natural. I mean, of course these stoner assholes would chill at the mall all day and get into random fights and arguments. Plus Silent Bob is a tech guru. I mean who else could turn a vibrator into a CD player with just chicken wire and shit? Snoochie Boochies?

Chris: Yeah, I’m a little weirded out by the Tricia character. I mean, why did the chick have to be 15 years old? Seems like Kevin Smith was either trying to add a little controversial element to the plot, or he has a boner for 15 year old girls. This would have worked the same if the character was in her 20s. It seemed to be a device to getting the Ben Affleck character some comeuppance. I mean, he gets arrested for statutory rape. It seems to be a harsh way to tie up a loose end. The Shannon character was one of the many plot foils, but I didn’t agree with his ultimate fate.

As for the William character, that was a more satisfactory conclusion for that character. You stare at the picture all day, don’t see anything, watch as other people see the object, get pissed about it. Seems logical.

The use of Jay and Silent Bob here was a little more than what was needed for them. I like to think of them more as the tying link between all the Askewniverse, and not as major players, outside of their own movie of course, which is fine. The whole plot of trying to destroy the game show set was unnecessary. Getting chased by the security LaFours was fine, which is what should happen between two stoners hanging out in the mall all day and mall security. Kevin Smith as Silent Bob was always distracting to me because HEY! The director is in his own movie!

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JT: So I think we ran through our thoughts on the characters and the plot. Seems like if you could change on thing it would be eliminating the game show and semblance of plot and go the Clerks route.

If you had to recast this movie with stars of the day who do you replace and with whom?

Once we go through that we can break down Mallrats’ place in the Askewniverse (JERSEY GIRL FTW???)

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Chris: Recasting this movie could be tricky, mainly because you would need some lesser known young actors to make it work, much like the original. So that leaves Michael Cera out (whew!). Why not cast Dave Franco in the straight role, the chicks could be cast using any combination of girls like Kat Dennings or Ariana Grande. I will admit that I don’t keep up with “it” people in Hollywood. Hell, throw Zac Efron in there as the 2016 Ben Affleck. The stoners could be replaced with anyone from the current Frat Pack of Hollywood in cameo roles.

If done right, a really funny movie taking place in a mall could bring the mall back to prominence as a hang out and maybe I could get back into the Afterburner cockpit after almost three decades out of it.

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JT: Efron in the Affleck role is inspired casting. He would be perfect for sure.

The actress that plays Erica in the Goldbergs may be a solid substitute for Shannon Doherty.

I guess Jay and Bob would forever be Jay and Bob, hard to recast there.

Ok, where does this fall in the Askewniverse for you. How do you rank Smith’s films? Zack & Miri better be high on that list for Justin Long’s role alone.

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Chris: In the Askewniverse, I would rank Clerks then Chasing Amy at the top. Both are solid movies, maybe with the slight edge given to Amy because it was more refined. I would have Dogma third then Clerks II fourth. Mallrats would be just ahead of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Here is how I would rate Smith’s films overall, if we’re going by just what he directed:

1. Chasing Amy
2. Clerks
3. Dogma
4. Zack and Miri Make a Porno
5. Clerks II
6. Red State
7. Mallrats
8. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
9. Jersey Girl
10. Tusk
11. Cop Out

I think Smith is in a funk in terms of quality and needs to get back to what brought him to the dance, which is dialogue-driven character interactions. Hopefully, Mallrats 2 is still in the works and he can get back there.

JT: I don’t have too much of a beef with your rankings there. I have fond memories of Dogma as it was the first Smith film I saw in the theater and thought the general message was pretty good, especially for someone like me that attended catholic school my entire life.

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I also really like Zack & Miri and think it doesn’t get enough love or run. There was a stretch when HBO had it on constantly and it was a great 1AM comfort movie. Plus, Katie Morgan, right?

I’m a bit torn on Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back… I feel like there is a lot to like in there but it ended being really long and going off the rails at times. Van Der Beek was great though and I like all of the callbacks littered throughout. Plus, Eliza Dushku, right?

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Finally… Jersey Girl… I know it’s not good, but some reason I get sucked into it every time I catch it on a movie channel. Maybe because I am father now some of it speaks a bit to me? I thought Carlin was pretty good here.

Any final thoughts overall on Mallrats before we put a bow on this?

Chris: I think I will go back and revisit Mallrats so I could refresh my memory on some it. Obviously, it struck a chord with you, and you’re a total 90’s kid. It didn’t do the same for me at the time, but I would like to go back and pick up on some of the nuances that made it a product of it’s era. Mallrats 2 is in the works and with Smith at the helm you know you’re going to be getting some callbacks to the original, so best to freshen up.

Plus, Claire Forlani, right?

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JT: Your maleness amazes me sometimes. Until next time, please remember to never accept a chocolate covered pretzel from a stranger. It just won’t end well. Ask poor Ed Tarbox. Plus, third nipple, right?

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Author: JT Rozzero

JT Rozzero is a cohost of the Place to Be podcast and original member of the legendary Moliseum Video. He enjoys all sports. The only thing he hates more than traffic and customer service is people. He is a proud Svenjolly and has had a sinus infection since October 2013. Send Justin an email