APES ON FILM: Do Not Open ‘til 2023 – The Delayed Legacy of MALLRATS

Posted on: Aug 11th, 2023 By:

Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer


Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.



3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Jason Lee, Jeremy London, Shannon Doherty, Claire Forlani, Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes, Michael Rooker
Director: Kevin Smith
Rated: R
Studio: Arrow Video
Region: 4K UHD Region Free
BRD Release Date: June 27, 2023
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 94 minutes


Lucky for director Kevin Smith, a slew of big-name critics mined a wealth of cultural commentary and social subtext in his first film CLERKS. The critical success of the director’s first movie placed him in front of major studios looking to cash in on this new cultural firebrand. And while, yes, CLERKS does manage to muster some kind of then current subtext on commerce and the grind of the middle class, Smith has all but admitted that it wasn’t intentional. Inspired by Richard Linklater’s strangely paced film SLACKER, that follows one oddball conversation to the next and never returning to any kind of plot, Smith set out to basically borrow Linklater’s energy with CLERKS. For what it’s worth, a middle-class fanboy with a passion and a lot of free time, made out pretty damn good. CLERKS is indeed an entertaining and culturally relevant success that has aged relatively well in spite of its ramshackle style.

So, when the big studios came calling, Smith went with what he knew worked and essentially set about making the same movie that had earned him so much acclaim. Except this time, success was not in the cards. MALLRATS shapes up to be a mild revision of the characters in CLERKS, but set in the larger, more culturally pervasive environment of the American shopping mall. One could draw a parallel to George Romero’s zombie sequel with DAWN OF THE DEAD, stating that all roads lead to commerce, and what better spot to showcase such than the mall. At any rate, lightning did not strike twice for Kevin Smith; at least not at first.

Motormouth ersatz comic book scholar Brodie (Lee) and his pal T.S. Quint (London – a nod to Robert Shaw’s Quint from JAWS?), take their broken hearts to the mall to ease the forlorn burdens they’ve recently suffered and plot their way back into love with the women who’ve recently abandoned them. As the two mosey about the mall bumping into a cast of dynamic, hilarious characters they each have some narrative connection to, in the background is the impending taping of the cable access game show “Truth or Date” where T.S.’s now ex-girlfriend Brandi (Forlani) is the date-seeking contestant. It becomes the boys’ mission to infiltrate the show and win back lost loves in a grand show of affection and shocking revelation.

Financed by Universal Pictures’ new indie film division Gramercy, Smith had a new element breathing down his throat that he never had to contend with on CLERKS: major studio interference. While Universal/Gramercy prided itself on the conceit and the artistic notions of the independent filmmaker, it wanted to have its cake and eat it too, demanding Smith make compromises that likely affected the reception of the film. The most significant accommodation forced Smith to omit a fourteen-minute bit of exposition that laid down why the main character Quint is so loathed by his girlfriend’s father Mr. Svenning (Rooker). And while the studio sought the opportunity with Smith to make “a smart PORKY’S,” they also wanted to cut down on the foul language. Gramercy lobbied for big name stars and sought to recast Mewes’ iconic “Jay” character, the real heart of the film’s puerile comedy, with the likes of Seth Green. Though the studio was not successful, it’s clear that Smith and his bosses had different intentions. All this and a troubled marketing campaign arguably lead to a failed second feature for the director.

We’ve seen the plot of this film a million times, so the movie’s charm and reason to watch lies within its characters. Smith provides a range of smarmy youths with whipcrack language so sodden with post adolescent wit that it could only ever have the advantage of being written. While admittedly juvenile, Smith’s dialogue is at times hilarious and often helped by the actors’ performances, the strongest of which is Jason Lee who delivers most believably. The weakest of the gang is Jeremy London who rattles off Smith’s overwrought lines too fast and never more convincingly than a community theatre audition.

MALLRATS is more character study than anything, and remains as a glimpse into the youth of the 1990s. Time alone has built the success of the film more than any marketing campaign or opening weekend box office. And speaking as someone who came of age seeing this film within the decade it represents, subtext, context, and all that stuff you learn about in film class falls second to the lovable, relatable characters and the chemistry they concoct on screen.

Over the years, Smith’s energy and wit has been replicated to the point of exhaustion, saturating films up to and including the Marvel Universe with his brand of cross-reference and humor. In a career-defining meta move for Smith, Stan Lee who makes a notable cameo in MALLRATS can even be found in Disney/Marvel’s 1990s set CAPTAIN MARVEL rehearsing his lines for his appearance in this film – Marvel nerds can bounce around and hyperventilate about how MALLRATS is now technically canon within the MCU. In spite of the director’s bouts of mediocrity outside of his “Askewniverse” (named for his production company View Askew, that consistently features Jay (Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) amongst other recurring characters), Kevin Smith is less a filmmaking influence than he is an unstoppable cultural bellwether.

Arrow Video presents MALLRATS on 4K UHD Blu-ray disc with loads of special features including a wordy introduction from Smith; Theatrical and Extended cuts of the film; a commentary with Smith, his producer and stars; a number of interviews; deleted scenes; archival materials; and Erection of an Epic: The making of Mallrats documentary. Arrow’s release also features an illustrated booklet with writing by film writer Philip Kemp and a fold out poster of replica blueprints for “Operation Drive-by” and “Operation Dark Knight” plotted by Jay and Silent Bob in the film. The disc comes packaged in a reversible sleeve of original and newly commissioned artwork by Robert Sammelin.

MALLRATS’ success in 1995 is irrelevant. While it was a critical and financial failure, it remains a cult hit that lives on to be quoted and referenced to this day. A time capsule of a dying brick and mortar institution of commerce, MALLRATS remains steadfast as an exemplar of the tyranny of nostalgia as a personal museum exhibit for a specific group of people from a specific time within their generation. Recommended.



When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly. Look for Lucas on Twitter, Facebook, and Letterboxd, and for all of Lucas’s content, be sure to check out his Linktree.

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Kool Kats of the Week: WOLVERTON Co-Writers Michael Stark and Terrell T. Garrett Get Adventurous in Turn of the Century London Where the Science of H.G. Wells Goes Head to Head with the Mysterious

Posted on: Jun 13th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Michael Stark, former screenwriter for Disney and Universal Pictures and current purveyor of rare horror and sci-fi books (Burnt Biscuit Books) “in the shadows of Pinewood Studios,” and Terrell T. Garrett, screenwriter, reside south of the Atlanta Airport, a.k.a. “Hillbilly Hollywood.” Having written several screenplays together, they decided to take an artistic leap and are currently in the process of producing their first comic, “WOLVERTON: THIEF OF IMPOSSIBLE OBJECTS, along with artist Derek Rodenbeck. Initially slated for the big screen but not quite making it past Hollywood’s current aversion to original works, WOLVERTON was revived as a self-published comic book and labor of love for Stark and Garrett. This action-packed story entangles Jack Wolverton, gentleman thief, within a wicked supernatural web, and “Only he can save the world’s most powerful artifacts from getting into the wrong hands.” While their tale takes place in turn of the century London and Wolverton holds H.G. Wells’ science in high esteem, as opposed to the superstition-riddled occultish general population, “Wolverton isn’t exactly steampunk,” tweeted Stark. “He’s more Schvitz Punk!” The premier issue is finished, however, Stark and Garrett made a decision to add four previously cut pages back in before it goes to the printers, so all you retro-fabulous turn of the century comic-loving kiddies will have more action-packed goodness when it hits the shelves!

Stark and Garrett’s home-grown labor of love is being crowd-funded by a Kickstarter campaign, in part to cover printing costs (28 full-color pages with a 5000 copy run!), but also to put feelers out to gauge interest in their project. They are offering many enticing perks for backers, including digital and hard copies, exclusive signed prints and the chance for a few lucky folks to get drawn and/or written into the action. So come on out and be a part of WOLVERTON history and snatch up an adventurous perk or two via the Kickstarter campaign available through July 6! Check out the full range of rewards here!

ATLRetro caught up with Michael Stark and Terrell T. Garrett to gab a bit about their upcoming comic,  writing for the Hollywood machine; and why going with crowd-funding made sense for this project. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A, why not take a peek at the teaser trailer and a wee history of WOLVERTON here.

ATLRetro: How did you and your co-writer, Terrell T. Garrett, come up with the idea of “Wolverton?” What inspired the tale and why set the story in turn of the century London?

Michael: I had an old script about a gentleman thief that I pitched to Sean Connery’s company before he did ENTRAPMENT. I wanted to dust it off, but Terrell yawned, finding the trope a bit old-fashioned. So, out of the blue I blurted out: “What if we set it in Edwardian England and he only stole magical objects like the Monkey’s paw?” Suddenly, my writing partner leaned in, very interested, and we knew we had a great idea.

(l-r) Co-Writers Terrell T. Garrett and Michael Stark

Can you tell our readers a little about the creative team behind WOLVERTON?

Michael: I was making a good living writing in Hollywood in the ’90s without actually having anything produced. Those days have changed. The new normal is free options and free rewrites which is why I started looking at trying a different format. Our artist, Derek Rodenbeck, was an army vet whose testimony of overcoming great tragedy with his art really moved us. We think we found a very talented, young man.

Terrell:  I’m currently adapting Alistair MacLean‘s novel, FEAR IS THE KEY, for the big screen. In fact, most of the stuff I’ve written has been in the screenplay format except for a few short stories here and there and a novel that I’m working on at a glacial pace. I’m also a new father.

What is it about the “gentleman thief” trope that inspires you to create a character like Jack Wolverton?

Michael: We were getting known in Hollywood for writing wild set pieces.  I wanted to do something that mixed action with the wit and sophistication of a Preston Sturges or an Ernst Lubitch film. The Gentleman Thief trope fit both worlds perfectly.

We see that you and Garrett worked together on several screenplays, and that you’ve optioned a few to Universal and Disney. Comics and film are similar in that they both rely on dialogue, action and visuals to deliver an awe-inspiring story. As a screenwriter and now a comic book writer, what would you say are the biggest differences between the two, and the challenges of each?

Artist Derek Rodenbeck

Michael: I thought it would be pretty easy to transpose the script into comic book format. I was dead wrong! Especially because modern comic books like modern screenplays have far less text in ‘em than when I was a kid. So, even after we basically locked the book, I’m still calling the letterer and asking if we can fit in a new bit.

Can you tell our readers what drew you to screenwriting, and who would you say are your most inspirational screenwriters/films?

Michael: Thank God for PBS in the 70s.  I saw a Francois Truffaut and Luis Bunuel film festival when I was 10 years old and knew then I wanted to be a screenwriter. Not a director ’cause I looked lousy in jodhpurs. At NYU, I mentored under three Academy winning screenwriters: Ring Lardner JR (MASH, WOMAN OF THE YEAR), Waldo Salt (MIDNIGHT COWBOY, SERPICO) and Ian Hunter, who could tear apart and fix just about anything.

Terrell: I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker when I saw JURASSIC PARK when I was 14 years old. Something about the collective awe in the theater and seeing all the names in the credits made me realize I wanted to be a part of the movie magic. My favorite screenwriters and filmmakers who inspire me are Walter Hill (ALIEN franchise), James Cameron, Jane Goldman (KICK-ASS), Frank Darabont (THE MIST), Dan Gilroy (NIGHTCRAWLER), Joe Carnahan (THE GREY), Bryan Fuller (HANNIBAL TV series), Jon Spaihts (DOCTOR STRANGE, PROMETHEUS) and Diablo Cody (JUNO).

Of course we have to know, as a native Long Islander, what made you fly south, and what is it about Atlanta that’s kept you around for so long?

Michael: That is a very long and surreal story, but basically I was given a month to live a decade ago and went on a spiritual journey that ended up with this nice, Jewish kid from Long Island becoming a minister in a small, rural GA church. That of course would make a good screenplay, but I strictly believe in never writing about your own life. Oh, yeah, I didn’t die BTW.

Most kids (and now adults, as the guilty pleasure no longer carries the negative geek stigma) can’t wait to get their grubby little hands on the coolest of the cool comics. What comics were your favorite growing up and what are your favorites now?

Terrell:  I grew up reading Chris Claremont X-MEN comics and the ’90s issues of THE NEW MUTANTS. PREACHER and Neil Gaiman‘s SANDMAN blew my teenage mind. These days, I’m enjoying Alan Moore‘s PROVIDENCE, Brian K. Vaughan‘s SAGA and Matt Fraction‘s ODY-C.

MichaelTeam Marvel and mind warping EC reprints. Now anything by Alan Moore.

WOLVERTON began as an original screenplay and was then regenerated into a comic book. Can you tell us a little about that process and whether seeing it drawn on the page in color helps visualize how it will look on the big screen?

Michael: The screenplay was a director’s wet dream with action scenes that were beyond hyper kinetic. Derek did a great job capturing that energy on the page. Even Wolverton’s hair is constantly in motion.

Any plans to take the tale back to Hollywood after its success as a comic book?

Michael: Well, there was just a huge bidding war over a friend’s graphic novel, so, yes! Hollywood is more interested in acquiring existing material than original screenplays. Maybe they’ll come to us this time if the comic book is successful.

Why a Kickstarter campaign for WOLVERTON? What are the advantages of taking the crowd-sourcing route?

Terrell: We chose Kickstarter because it just felt logical. A lot of creatives have used the crowd-sourcing platform and have found success, especially in the realm of comics. We figured it was worth a shot. Not only to hopefully cover the cost of printing, but to see if people would be interested in our little story.

You’ve put together some great bonuses for investors, ranging from digital and hard copies to exclusive signed prints and the chance to get drawn into the action (Exciting!). What can folks looking to invest via Kickstarter expect to get when they back your comic?

Terrell: Backers can, firstly, expect a fun adventure story full of cool visuals, sparking dialogue and great characters.  Secondly, for the backers who dish out a little extra, they can expect to see their likeness or the name of their business in comic book form or own exciting and original artwork. Thirdly, they can know that they invested in a story with little risk, and have contributed to the dream of a brand new father.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

Terrell:  Nonfiction Book: MIND HUNTER: INSIDE THE FBI’S ELITE SERIAL CRIME UNIT by John E. Douglas. Podcast: LIMETOWN. Podcast: THE BLACK TAPES. Science Fiction Book: RED RISING by Pierce Brown. Novella: “Agents of Dreamland” by Caitlin R. Kiernan.

Michael: I’m cycling through John Ford westerns and Jeeves and Wooster books at the moment. I’m not sure what I’ll spit out after that combo meal. Although, Terrell and I already wrote a script about Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in Victorian London.  That may be our next comic book.

Any advice for writers and/or artists out there on putting together and publishing their own comic books?

Terrell:  Treat the artist as your collaborator. Be patient with the process. Never give up.

Michael: Who knew sticking it to the man – the man being Hollywood – would be so damn expensive. Many people I went to film school with are now editors at Marvel and DC. Some even started their own publishing companies. I knew if I asked for their advice, they’d probably talk me out of it and I didn’t want to be talked out of it.

Getting back to why we’re here chatting you up, WOLVERTON, and the comic book’s Kickstarter campaign! Without giving too much away, what can you tell our readers a little about the comic?

Michael:  Here’s how we pitched it to Hollywood. In turn of the century London, Jack Wolverton, gentleman thief, specializes in stealing the arcane, the accursed and the occult. With war about to break out, only he can stop the world’s most powerful artifacts (The Monkey’s Paw, The Hope Diamond and the Portrait of Dorian Gray) from falling into the wrong hands! Think Indiana Jones meets Pirates of the Caribbean.

And last but not least, how many issues are planned and how can our readers snag up their very own copies?

Michael: We are printing up 5,000 copies and you can get a copy before anyone on the planet does by backing us now. If the ship carrying them through the high China Seas isn’t attacked by pirates, expect a summer release.

All photos courtesy of Michael Stark and Terrell T. Garrett and used with permission.

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