Mallrats appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this double-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While clearly a much better-looking film than we saw in Smith's initial effort, Mallrats still contained some flaws that kept it from offering a top-notch viewing experience.
Sharpness generally seemed pretty good, though some vague softness occasionally crept into the picture. I noticed no signs of any moiré effects or jagged edges, though. Print quality seemed fairly decent, though I noticed a moderate amount of specks, marks, grit and blotches.
Colors were erratic. For the most part, they looked pretty good, with adequate saturation and boldness. However, a fair number of scenes appeared murky and displayed hues that seemed a little too heavy and that gave the image a hazy, overly greenish or purplish cast. Black levels looked adequate and shadow detail was also fine, though neither often came into play in this film. Mallrats looked pretty good, really, but offered enough problems to only merit a "B".
The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was on about the same level. It's not a tremendous mix, but considering the content of the film, it's pretty good. The soundstage offered a fair amount of activity in all channels, although the center dominated since the film's rather dialogue driven. Still, we got a nice little image, with all sorts of ambient sounds emanating from the other speakers. It could seem a bit forced at times - kind of like they found a new toy after the extreme budgetary restrictions of Clerks - but it worked in the film's best interests.
Quality of sound seemed good but not great. Dialogue sounded generally natural and clear and always remained intelligible. Music appeared somewhat thin and flat, though, and offered little low end; it never sounded harsh but it just lacked much presence. Effects seemed realistic and clean; no parts of the presentation displayed any distortion. It's a nice track but not a terrific one.
How did the picture and sound quality on this “Tenth Anniversary” DVD compare to those of the original DVD from 1999? I thought both releases seemed identical. This appeared to be the same transfer found on the earlier disc.
Quite a few supplements appear on this two-sided “Tenth Anniversary” DVD. Some of these repeat from the earlier DVD. I’ll note new components with an asterisk, so if you fail to see a star, that means the element also popped up on the original disc.
We open on Side One with a running audio commentary from director/writer/actor Kevin Smith, actors Ben Affleck, Jason Lee and Jason Mewes, producer Scott Mosier and View Askew historian Vincent Pereira. Clerks presented a similarly large group but it was a problematic track, made worse by some bad production values that left much of the group nearly inaudible.
The commentary for Mallrats is a more professional affair and it's also a lot more entertaining. Actually, it's a lot of fun, and it's about a million times more interesting than the film itself. Smith seems to be utterly incapable of presenting himself as anything other than fully honest and up-front, and that attitude carries through to the rest of the group in one of the bluntest tracks I've heard. So many commentaries after schmooze-fests, but not this one; everyone's very honest about the film. It's very compelling. The only disappointment is that they come close, but no one quite slams Shannen Doherty, though it's pretty obvious she didn't win any friends on the set.
Also very frank is the material in the 21-minute documentary View Askew's Look Back At Mallrats. We get talking-head interviews with Smith, Mosier, Affleck, Mewes, Lee, producer Jim Jacks, and actors Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson; these make up the vast majority of the piece, though we also see some on-set footage.
It doesn't include a single shot from the movie itself, and that's a good thing. For one, it means that the makers of the program had enough respect for its audience to know that we've already seen the picture so we don't need a repeat of it. It also lets the show's 21 minutes pack in a lot of material; because there's literally no "fluff" here, this documentary is at least as substantial as those that run twice as long.
The program repeats a fair amount of what we heard in the commentary, but it's still a well-produced piece. We learn about the project’s genesis, its “R”-rated tone but also catering to a bigger audience, the budget, the cast and studio objections to Mewes, Smith’s style, problems marketing the film, negative critical reactions, box office failure and its continued life as a cult flick. Again, it's one of the most honest documentaries I've seen, and it doesn't hesitate to discuss the movie in clear terms. I'll take 20 minutes of that over an hour of schmoozing any day.
Although the title of *Cast Interviews from the Original Set implies these clips appeared on the prior DVD, here “original set” refers to the location of the movie shoot. In this eight-minute and 38-second collection, we hear from Lee, Smith, Mosier, and actors Claire Forlani, Shannen Doherty, Jeremy London and Michael Rooker. They chat about the shoot, the story, and the characters. We hear lots of praise for all involved and very little substance in this boring set.
More information from the director pops up in *A Brief Q&A with Kevin Smith. During this nine-minute and two-second piece, Smith looks back at the film and also reflects on the new DVD. This is essentially a comedic piece in which Smith attacks himself and many others, including DVD fans – or “shut-ins”, as he describes us. Smith’s a funny guy, and this is a very amusing chat.
We follow this with eight minutes and 13 seconds of *Outtakes. Some of this falls into the usual goofs and giggles category, but we get more interesting material as well. Look for alternate lines and other unusual bits.
To supplement “Look Back” and the commentary, we get a new documentary entitled *The Erection of an Epic: The Making of Mallrats. This 22-minute and nine-second show includes old remarks from the set Smith, Lee, London, Forlani, Mosier, Doherty, and producer Jim Jacks; they set up the then-high expectations for the movie. From there the program looks at what happened next with information from Smith, Affleck, Jacks, Lee, Mosier, London, Mewes, Rooker, film critics Kenneth Turan, Janet Maslin, actors Renee Humphrey, Stan Lee and Ethan Suplee, director of photography Dave Klein, executive producer Cotty Chubb, casting director Don Phillips, TV/comic book writer Paul Dini, and producer Sean Daniel.
They chat about the movie’s initial failure and reactions to that, its initial positive Comic-Con screening, mistaken assumptions about its audience, problems making the leap from indie filmmaking to the big time, casting, bonding on the set, and the flick’s afterlife. The latter subject lends a rosy glow to the piece, but there’s a lot of honest reflection on what went wrong with the project. That helps make “Erection” another interesting component.
A few other supplements round out Side One. One section presents exactly 100 production photos. These consist of a mixture of publicity shots and pictures taken on the set. They come as a running program, but you can skip through them as well. We get a fun music video for the Goops' remake of "Build Me Up Buttercup"; the latter offers Jay and Silent Bob in a "lesson" on how to make a cheap video, and it's easily wittier and more clever than Mallrats itself. Lastly, we locate a trailer for the film.
At least two Easter Eggs pop up on Side One. We get something old and something new. For the former, head to the special features menu and click to the left of “Outtakes”. Press enter to find the 81-second "anti-Easter egg" from the original disc. It mocks "Easter eggs" and those who seek them; there's no actual anti-Easter content.
For the *new clip, go to the main menu and press up from “Scenes”. Hit enter to see a 46-second snippet with Smith between takes during an interview shoot.
Finally, Side One finishes with some *Previews. We get ads for The Blues Brothers, The Big Lebowski and Cry Wolf.
Side Two’s main attraction comes from an *extended cut of Mallrats. This adds 27 minutes to the theatrical version and runs two hours, three minutes. Probably the biggest change appears at the start, as we get a totally different opening. It lasts 12 minutes, 50 seconds and sets up the movie in an alternate way.
This creates a subplot connected to an alleged assassination plot. It appears that TS and Brandi try to shoot the governor of New Jersey, but this is all a mistake. References to this event and its ramifications pop up frequently through the rest of the movie, and those snippets comprise a lot of the added running time. On the own, these bits are short, but they appear so often that they fill out a lot of time.
Otherwise, there’s not a lot of difference in the two cuts. Again, outside of the extended opening, the longer version adds bits and pieces to the original but nothing I would consider to be a big change.
Does any of this make a difference in the quality of the film? To my surprise, it does. I still don’t care for Mallrats, and apparently Smith doesn’t think a whole lot of this cut; during an introduction, he refers to it as “The Version That Never Should Have Been”. I disagree, as I think the extra footage fleshes out the characters and story better. With the added breathing room, the movie flows better and doesn’t come across as so much of a crass assault. It still has the same cheap humor, but it doesn’t attack you in the same way, so it comes across as a little brighter and more engaging.
The presentation of the extended cut resembles that of the theatrical version. Picture quality was a little weaker, usually due to the added footage. We see some frame jumps when a few new shots occur, and these can look a bit faded and fuzzy. Most of the movie offers similar visuals, though, and the soundtrack showed almost no differences. Despite a few quality compromises, the extended cut usually works fine.
As I alluded above, Side Two includes an introduction to the extended cut. In this 10-minute and 55-second piece, Smith and Mosier discuss the longer version and give us some notes about it. As usual, it’s funny and informative.
Side Two ends with *Mallrats: The Reunion. This 50-minute and 10-second program includes a Q&A with Kevin Smith, Dave Klein, Jim Jacks, Scott Mosier, Renee Humphrey, Ethan Suplee, Jason Mewes, Jeremy London, and Jason Lee. The questions go for the goofy like Easter bunny beatings and the inspirations for the stink palm. There’s even an odd rambling chick who goes on and on about Smith and Degrassi Junior High and God knows what else. We also hear about Smith’s current view of the movie, alternate sequences and problems shooting the flick, getting Stan Lee to appear, early ideas for a sequel, initial reactions to the flick before it bombed and thoughts about its failure, whether Smith did his own stunts, why Lee left pro skating to become an actor, and casting issues related to Mewes.
Expect two things for “Reunion”. First, you’ll hear a fair amount of repeated information if you’ve already checked out the other extras. A number of the same stories and comments appear elsewhere, so this piece occasionally turns redundant. Second, Smith dominates. This doesn’t surprise me – it’s his baby, and he’s a chatty boy. Nonetheless, since we hear so much from him elsewhere, it’d be nice to get more information from the others.
Those folks do chime in more frequently as the program progresses, though, and it generally offers a pretty good chat. The audience is a goofy group and they don’t ask a lot of great questions, but they toss in enough curveballs to make things interesting. I admit I’d like the Q&A better if I’d seen it earlier. On its own, it’s fine, but it loses points due to inevitable repetition.
Speaking of repetition of lack thereof, it’s time to cover what components found on the old DVD fail to appear here. One notable is the omission of the “video commentary”. This allowed us to periodically see parts of the commentary session. It never did much for me, so I won’t mourn its loss. This set also drops the production notes and biographies from the prior disc.
Fans will notice that the original release’s deleted scenes don’t show up in their own section here. That’s because most if not all of them are reincorporated in the extended cut. Unfortunately, this means we lose the interesting introductions Smith and Pereira provided for those snippets. It’d have been nice to get the deleted scenes on their own for those not interested in the extended cut, but given the limited space on the DVD and the fact that domain took up more than an hour on the old release, I understand why this doesn’t occur.
The “sophomore slump” hit Kevin Smith hard with 1995’s Mallrats, though he’d quickly rebound with 1997’s Chasing Amy, still his best flick. Mallrats has earned an audience of supporters/apologists over the years, but don’t count me among them, as I think the movie stank then and stinks now. The DVD presents pretty positive picture and audio along with an impressive and informative set of supplements.
I recommended the original DVD almost solely on the strength of those extras, as those were very enjoyable. I guess I’d do the same for the 10th Anniversary DVD, though it leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. This movie really does bite, so it’s hard to encourage anyone to buy it.
Anyway who likes Mallrats but doesn’t own the old DVD should definitely grab the 10th Anniversary release since it includes many new materials. As for fans who already possess the original disc, they should “upgrade” only if they want the additional extras. I thought the picture and audio of both DVDs seemed identical. The extended cut and other added materials make the new Mallrats a good candidate for a double dip, however.