In honor of the Mallrats 10th Anniversary Extended Edition (which is released today), I think about how this film came into my life.
Clerks, Kevin Smith's first film, was released when I was a freshman in high school. I didn't see it when was out in the theaters, but I was intrigued by the story MTV News ran about how Kevin sold his comic book collection to help fund the film. I thought that was cool but I didn't rush out to see the movie, especially given the fact that I still wasn't of-age to see R-rated movies by myself.
I vaguely remember seeing ads for Mallrats in the few weeks before it came out in theaters. I remember a few print ads, some commercials and some mentions about its soundtrack but that was it. I didn't know anything about the movie and I wasn't really compelled to see it (nevermind the fact that it was another R-rated movie and I was underage). I heard a little bit about how the movie was ripped to shreds by film critics and it bombed at the box office and that was the end of the story.
I eventually saw Clerks when I was a senior in high school and as shocking as it sounds, I didn't get it. I maybe laughed twice upon my first viewing; I felt like I was watching an incredibly dirty art-school film more than a comedy. Not helping matters was that the copy of tape was so worn out that a blue line was on top of the screen the entire time. This line was so distracting that I barely caught any of the jokes (hence the lack of laughs).
A while after I started working at Best Buy, I came back to Clerks, given its look at customer service (or the lack of customer service). With the things I dealt with on a shift-by-shift basis as a media associate, I could now really relate to Dante the loser, Randall the smart-ass voice of reason and the local stoners Jay and Silent Bob. I added Clerks to my movie collection and eventually saw Mallrats over at my friend Marshall's house. I enjoyed the flick, but wasn't drawn to get it. Mallrats was a fun time but not as powerful as Clerks was.
College progressed and I knew about Kevin's following films, Chasing Amy and Dogma, but once again, I wasn't really drawn to see them. These were the days before Netflix. Hell, these were the days before I had my own rental card at Blockbuster. I heard about how "controversial" Dogma was (The Catholic League was raising flags for the sake of raising flags) but after hearing some negative reviews from my friends, I stayed away from it.
In fall of junior year at TCU, one of my roommates suggested I see Dogma. I rented it and fell madly in love with it. It was so right on with my feelings on religion and hypocrisy that I instantly became a fan of Kevin's work. I watched Chasing Amy and was blown away by it, bought it on DVD and also bought Clerks and Mallrats on DVD around the same time. These movies spoke to me, but at this time, Mallrats really hit me hard. Why? Because of its respect for things that are often made light of; namely, comic book geekdom.
With Mallrats, here was a writer/director treating comics (often painted as only for kids and socially-inept adults) with respect and humor. I had a few comics growing up, but I was never a collector like others. I was more into cartoon (and with some, cartoonish) versions of Spider-Man, X-Men, Superman and Batman growing up. Seeing comic fandom translated to my age and not appear to be tragic was a revalation for me. I jumped head into comics soon after.
So as a new cut of Mallrats (along with a new documentary on the legacy of the film) is being released in stores, I interpret what I learned from experience of me as a fan and what Kevin went through making it.
Mallrats was seen as a failure on many fronts, coming off the heels of Clerks. Critics who praised Clerks as groundbreaking were unintentionally becoming a lynch mob for Kevin because of Mallrats. Yes, the film is a lot faster paced, more slapsticky and more low brow than Clerks, but it's hardly a failure by any stretch of imagination. It's hilarious and there's not a bad moment in it. It's one of those 90-minute flicks you can start while you cook dinner and can finish it with dessert. The jokes are pretty spot-on. The characters of TS and Brodie are of the frustrated and the confident (sides that many guys have), thus making them easy to care about. Roger Ebert said that there's nothing to care about with the main characters. I disagree: TS and Brodie are trying to make the most of their post-adolescent life and find some stability with the women in their lives. That's plenty for me to care about.
Like Weezer's Pinkerton and the Jam's This is the Modern World, Mallrats suffered from being the successor to a groundbreaking release, so it was doomed from receiving immediate, widespread acclaim. Seeing that Mallrats still holds up very well, this is more proof to me that the true success of creativity is doing and enjoying what you make. Just completing a film and releasing it is the marker of success for me.
I don't sit around and think about how many copies of Post I should sell to consider it a success. I think the test of its validity is if I feel I successfully get my points across to myself and others.