A love story wrapped in indolence and the language of the mall might not be your choice, but it's all around us, and Smith has caught it sharply.

MALLRATS

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


Writer/Director Kevin Smith rode his ground-breaking first film "Clerks" to a Sundance Film Festival prize last year. "Mallrats," the second movie in his trilogy, has opened via the mainstream route in 1200 theaters with a whopping budget and all the trimmings.

Any second effort after such success is vulnerable. Critics love to spot a new talent but can hardly bear to be part of a chorus of praise. Has Kevin Smith done it again? Well, yes and no. He has two startling abilities: ears that soak up the tone and colors of the language around him and a sharp intelligence that processes the seed of an idea until it is beyond outrageous.

A word, a glance, or a gesture is for Smith the nugget of a prolonged conversation among friends. Laughter boils up as they discuss at great length and with utmost gravity the most ridiculous of subjects with a vocabulary of roughly 100 words. Rarely has so much insight been contained in so few syllables.

This particular talent of Smith's has produced in this film at least three headshakingly ludicrous, howlingly funny scenes. Each of these small victories starts from a small notion and builds to the humor that will soon be thoroughly identifiable as belonging to him alone. You will not forget the chocolate doughnuts, the description of a collective effort to land an endangered plane, or the triple nipple scene. For most of us, that's enough.

The script has simply soaked up the language and culture of a suburban mall--a blotter to ink, a sponge to a spill. Brodie (Jason Lee) and T.S. (Jeremy London) have been dumped by their girlfriends, Rene (Shannen Doherty) and Brandi (Claire Forlani). The discouraged guys seek comfort in the soothing, familiar rhythms of their real home, the local mall.

Smith's cast is perfectly suited to his vision. Shannen Doherty delivers her lines in absolutely right, staccato bursts. Jason Lee is inspired as the classic lovable goof-off that only the right girl can love. In a stellar moment, Priscilla Barnes delivers an entire irreverent scene with major-league confidence. Smith and Jason Mewes minister to the needy with comic affection.

So far, so terrific: jokes, rhythm, performances, language. But there is a real problem. In a visual medium, the visuals of "Mallrats" are mediocre. It's too small for the big frame. It commands you to listen, not to watch. If someone comes along who can translate the zap of Smith's dialogue into image, he'll be unstoppable.

Underneath the zap lies the heart of a romantic. No one is mean in this picture. The guys only want their girls back; the girls wish only that their guys weren't such slobs. You got it. It's a love story. A love story wrapped in indolence and the language of the mall might not be your choice, but it's all around us, and Smith has caught it sharply.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 490
Studio : Gramercy Pictures
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h37m


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