Watching a movie is a bit like watching a puppet show; you know it's not real, but if the strings are too obvious it takes away some of the fun. Mallrats was cult filmmaker Kevin Smith's second film, a disappointing comedy where the strings are all too apparent.

The story concerns T.S. (Jeremy London) and Brodie (Jason Lee), two slackers who get dumped by their girlfriends on the same morning. They spend the day at Brodie's favourite mall, where they try to rebuild their relationships and encounter a range of bizarre characters, including a sleazy Ben Affleck and stoners Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith).

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It's a slender premise, yet one from which the filmmakers squeeze an awful lot of plot. The movie suffers from this, as the creators and, consequently, the audience have no interest in the story, so it detracts from the more interesting elements.

Clerks, Smith's debut hit, revelled in the witty, rambling conversations of the young and bored, but here the dialogue feels forced and deliberately verbose. You might use a hundred words where one would do when stuck in a video store all day, but probably not when frantically trying to make a point.

Mallrats was made by Smith's company with studio money and its hybrid roots are evident, with the director's distinctive style shoehorned into a tits-and-ass teen comedy that doesn't satisfy on either level. Fans will enjoy the references to Star Wars, comics and other films of the oeuvre, but will probably be left cold by the gratuitous nudity and attempts at injecting tension and romance. Similarly, anyone looking for a modern day Porky's - the studio's stated intention - may be amused by the caustic Brodie, but wonder what happened to the sex.

The inconsistency of tone infects every part of the film, leading to uneven performances - Michael Rooker, as Mr Jared Svenning, is particularly disastrous - and removing any credibility from the story. At one point Willam (Ethan Suplee) sees Shannon Doherty's character René and shouts "Brenda?", a reference to Doherty's part in Beverley Hills 90210.

Like the movie, it's a moment that would have amused the filmmakers more than the audience.

Reviewed on: 22 Jan 2004
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After being dumped by their girlfriends, two friends spend the day at the mall.
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Director: Kevin Smith

Writer: Kevin Smith

Starring: Shannon Doherty, Jeremy London, Jason Lee, Claire Forlani, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Renée Humphrey, Jason Mewes, Ethan Suplee, Michael Rooker

Year: 1995

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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Clerks