Mallrats appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-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.
Best of all are the fine array of supplements on this Collector's Edition DVD. First up is 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 pretty lame track, made worse by some bad production values that left much of the group 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.
Parts of the commentary can actually be watched during the film. If you run the movie with the commentary on, every once in a while a Mallrats logo will appear in the bottom right corner of the screen; that means those sections include video clips of the commentary recording. This only happens a few times during the movie and offers maybe 10 minutes of video footage in all.
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.
One potentially exciting feature of the DVD comes from the deleted scenes section. Mallrats offers a plethora of excised material; the total running time for this area runs about 62 minutes. Not all of that is actually movie footage; interspersed between clips are introductions from Smith and Pereira. While none of the scenes are funny, they're still interesting to watch, especially since Smith and Pereira let us know why they didn't make the cut. Really, the information about the making of Mallrats and Smith's first Hollywood experience is much more interesting than the film itself.
A few other supplements round out the collection. One section presents exactly 100 production photos. These consist of a mixture of publicity shots and pictures taken on the set. The MCA Soundtrack Presentation area gives us an ad for the soundtrack album plus 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.
Some decent though somewhat brief biographies for Smith and 10 of the actors appear, and we get production notes on the DVD itself and in the booklet. Oddly, these two sets feature much of the same text but they differ in a few ways; each offers a bit of information that can't be found in the other. We also locate a trailer for the film.
Finally, Mallrats includes one Easter egg. Actually, it's really an "anti-Easter egg" - it mocks "Easter eggs", as there's no actual anti-Easter content. To discover this treasure, light up the eyes of one of the robot's on the right-hand side of a menu screen.
While Mallrats makes for a nice DVD - with good sound and picture and some strong extras - the movie itself is quite bad. As such, this one's a tough call. I love good supplements, and this DVD has some fine ones, so even though I hated the film, it's still worth it for me to own it. If you're not as heavily into extras, you should probably steer clear, though the supplements alone make it worth at least a rental.
To rate this film, visit the Anniversary Edition review of MALLRATS