A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 228 – Mallrats

Mallrats – October 14th, 2010

So, we don’t own Clerks. Why do we not own Clerks? How can we own this and Dogma and not Clerks? I have no idea. It feels like a giant gaping hole in our collection. Like a dropped stitch that will eventually unravel everything. Except it won’t, cause it’s just a movie we haven’t bought yet. Still, it seems so strange that we don’t have it. We’ve both worked retail! We’ve both worked at video stores! Some of the questions Randall gets in Clerks could have been taken verbatim from our times at video stores. Certain quotes and references have entered not just our own vocab but common parlance. And yet we don’t own Clerks. Bizarre. But it means we didn’t watch it prior to this for the project. I’m salving my guilty conscience by pointing out that while there are many connections between the movies, they aren’t precisely a series and don’t necessarily need to be viewed in order.

Granted, I think Clerks introduces Jay and Silent Bob really well whereas here, even though they’re doing much the same stuff (hanging out, getting high, making trouble for other people, being nonsensical and silent, respectively), they’re given little context. But really, do they need much context? Everyone in this movie is hanging out at or working in the mall. That’s the context right there. It’s in the name of the movie. They’re mallrats. They’re a connection to the other movies, sure, but they’re also set dressing and a plot point for this one.

So anyhow, this movie has next to nothing to do with Clerks aside from Jay and Silent Bob and a few references sprinkled in, like the Walter joke and Gil Hicks, played by Brian O’Halloran, who played Dante Hicks in Clerks. It’s mostly about these two guys, Brodie and T.S. and how they both bum around the mall after getting dumped by their girlfriends. Of course the girlfriends are at the mall too and the plot that follows mostly involves the two of them trying to figure out a way to win the ladies back. Hijinks ensue. And said hijinks are indeed quite funny in places. Brodie and T.S. (mostly Brodie) get Jay and Silent Bob to beat up the Easter Bunny and to sabotage a game show taking place in one of the mall’s rotundas. They get thrown out and go see a topless fortune teller at a flea market. But then, a goodly portion of the movie involves the two of them walking around the mall, being witty and mopey at each other. Really, there’s a lot of talking, punctuated by scenes of Silent Bob trying to destroy the stage for the game show.

There are a lot of things I could complain about in this movie. For one, it fails the Bechdel test quite impressively. There are four fairly decently sized female characters in the movie and pretty much all they ever talk about is sex and guys, whether they’re talking to each other or to the male characters. The plot revolves around these two guys wanting to win their girlfriends back, and I don’t think it’s really a spoiler to say that they both manage it. And really, I don’t like either of the guys that much as people. As characters to follow around a mall and listen to geeky commentary from? Sure! As boyfriend material? No thanks. I’ve got a geeky video game obsessed significant other, but he did introduce me to his mother pretty early on in our relationship, and if he promises me breakfast he delivers.

So let’s talk about the relationships here. Brodie is a comic book and video game geek whose passions for such things are only rivaled by his love and deep understanding of the mall. His girlfriend, Renee, is sick of having to sneak in and out of his house to avoid his mom, whom she’s never met, and is also sick of having a boyfriend with no further goals in life than amassing as many comic books as possible and playing lots of Sega. Brodie’s an asshole. He’s loud, obnoxious, rude and thoroughly convinced he’s hot shit. He gets Renee back pretty much by continuing to be an asshole, but also proving that the guy she’s rebounding with is a bigger asshole, what with being a rapist. That’s. That’s not character development. That’s skeevy. And then there’s T.S. and Brandi. Now, on the surface, and for much of the movie, T.S. is a pretty decent guy. Sure, he’s friends with Brodie, but these things happen. He does gain points by being thoroughly embarrassed by Brodie and his antics. But Brandi dumps him when he flips out over her being a contestant on her father’s new dating game show (the one at the mall) because the contestant who should have been on the show died while swimming laps because T.S. told her that television cameras make you look fat. Why does he flip out? Well, he was planning on proposing to Brandi that weekend on a trip to Florida, but now they’re not going. Instead of being not a jackass and realizing that shit has gone down and the big plans aren’t happening, he goes on a tear and Brandi dumps him. And yes, he wins her back too.

My point here is that the two main characters really totally deserved to be dumped. I’m willing to cut T.S. some slack, because his nerves and the panic of plans ruined can make people do stupid things. But Brodie? No. Sorry. I honestly don’t care if Renee and Brandi take their boyfriends back. That’s not what I like about the movie, and I assure you, I do enjoy a lot of it (including Brodie’s one redeeming moment for me, which is when he takes a cue from Larry Niven and gives a little speech about Superman’s fatherhood prospects). What I enjoy is the bizarre idea of this movie that takes place in a mall. It’s all so very meandering and aimless. There’s the game show, and the whole thing with Jay and Silent Bob trying to take down the stage. There’s the bit with the Easter Bunny, and the flea market, and a cameo by Stan Lee. There’s Brodie’s whole obsession with the mall, down to demanding that he and Renee treat it like a kid in a divorce and plan visitation dates. I might not like him, but he is a great character for the movie. He inhabits the setting like it’s his kingdom. He knows all the stores, all the employees. He demands soda and pontificates about the definition of the food court. He knows when the Easter Bunny sets up and any new changes are met with displeasure. Ignore the bits about the relationships and this is exactly what it says on the tin: A movie about folks hanging out at the mall. The content is secondary. The setting’s the point.

October 14, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Mallrats

October 14, 2010

Mallrats

I remember Amanda trying to describe this movie to me when she had seen it and I had not. Her description was incoherent and made no real sense. She said it was about some guys who hang out at a mall, talk incessantly about sex and comic books. It had those two guys from Clerks, one of whom talked all the time and one of whom never spoke. It has a fifteen year old girl who’s writing a book about sex and sleeping with all kinds of guys. It has an annoying prick who likes to shag girls in the most uncomfortable place. At the time I thought that there was some kind of disconnect which made it impossible for me to understand how all these disparate moments made up a movie. Then I saw it.

The truth of the matter is that there isn’t that much of a movie here. It’s just a string of weird scenes where stuff happens to slackers. Oh, sure, it’s fun. There’s plenty of references to comic books and even an appearance by Stan Lee. There’s a lot of silly dialog and a lot of swearing and drug references. But it’s not a movie, really.

For one thing it doesn’t feature actors. Well, okay, it has a few real actors, but many of the roles are just filled by Kevin Smith’s pals. The dialog, viewed from here in the future, seems like the kind of stuff you’d expect to see in foul mouthed internet video blogs. The entire production has a fairly amateur feel to it. But of course that’s part of the appeal.

The story (such as it is) here involves two friends, Brodie and T.S., who are dumped by their respective girlfriends on the same day and console themselves by going to the local mall. T.S. is a romantic fellow who had been planning to propose to his girlfriend during the Universal studio tour on a vacation in Florida. Brodie is a completely self-obsessed jerk who has absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever except a liking for comic books. Over the course of the movie they meet up with friends and ex-lovers in the mall, do battle with mall cops and eventually appear on a live love connection television show in an attempt to get back together with their girlfriends.

I can’t say I love the whole movie. At its best it’s irreverent, self referential and nerdy. Any time that Jason Mewes is on the screen is fun, because he’s clearly not acting. Jay just is that way. He has all the funniest lines and his whole plot about trying to destroy the stage for the game show also results in the best physical humor in the movie. It helps that when I was working at TLA a couple of the guys had the talking Jay and Silent Bob figures. Jay had phrases from this movie like “Faster than Walt Flannigan’s Dog” and the Silent Bob figure had a button to make him talk but it didn’t do anything.

On the other hand I don’t care at all for the character of Brodie. I don’t think it’s Jason Lee’s performance – he’s one of the better actors on the set (note how he actually manages to look as though he’s attracted to Shannen Doherty) but the character himself is utterly irredeemable. The movie tries its best to convince me that he is actually charming and amusing, but it never really works for me. Oh, I can sympathise with somebody who wakes up next to a beautiful woman and plays video games or who loves comic books, but his in-your-face attitude and constant obscene rants do not make me root for him as a hero.

Still, I enjoy the whole View Askew universe. This is a clear stepping stone from the shoestring budget and completely amateur production of Clerks towards something more accomplished and polished, if not more mature. I think Kevin Smith really started to hit his stride with Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, but these first steps need to be made. If Clerks is Smith’s THX 1148 then this movie is his American Graffiti. It’s hipper and less experimental, but it’s not what he’s really capable of. (Hmm, that metaphor would seem to imply that Clerks II is Smith’s Attack of the Clones. I’ll have to re-visit that thought when I get around to buying that.)

October 14, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment