Mallrats - The Extended Edition (aka, "The Version That Should Never Have Been")
In 1995, Kevin Smith had the arduous task of following up his incredibly successful debut Clerks. The film which gained him prizes from Cannes to Sundance and made its shooting budget 116 times over in theatres. He was on a rather short leash for Mallrats. This time around he was working for a big studio (Universal Pictures) with a bigger budget ($6 million dollars). During production, the decision was made that unlike Clerks, Kevin would not receive final cut on Mallrats as the big studio didn't trust a "kid" (he was 25 at the time) to cut a relatively large scale film. Instead, the cutting duties went to Paul Dixon, who mostly edited made-for-TV shlock. It would end up being the only film never edited by Smith and his producer/right-hand-man Scott Mosier.
Cut to ten years later. Mallrats has gone from box office flop (2.1 million in its original release) that Kevin jokingly apologized for (at the 1996 Independent Spirit Awards) to a cult-classic (DVD sales through the roof, regarded as one of Smith's best, lines quoted left and right). Thus, Kevin has released a new Mallrats DVD, that on top of other great special features, contains the Smith/Mosier cut of Mallrats.
While Universal amps up the ad-campaign to ship the disc, parading its "ALL NEW EXTENDED VERSION," Smith understands the truth behind this extended cut. On the DVD while introducing the film he claims that the version of the film on the DVD is "Mallrats - The Version That Should Never Have Been." And while the DVD is solid, and definitely worth a pickup for any fans of Kevin or View Askew in general...the version should never have been. And here's why. If you haven't seen Mallrats...(A) You should, it's a fucking great movie and you’ll probably really love it and (B)***SPOILER ALERT!!!*** This probably won’t even make much sense if you haven’t seen the movie.
The big difference between the cut of Mallrats that everybody knows and loves and this cut is the opening sequence. The opening of the extended cut consists of bad guy Jared Svenning (Michael Rooker) sponsoring a Governor’s Ball for the governor that if all goes well, will earn him a grant to help out his small television station. Long story short, T.S. Quint (Jeremy London) manages to ruin the party while visiting with Svenning's daughter and his girlfriend, Brandi (Claire Forlani) and Svenning doesn't get the grant. Amongst fans, this cut sequence is well known as a deleted scene on the previous 'rats DVD, but this is the first time it's been seen in the contest of the film. The theatrical cut does make a couple of slight references to it, such as Svenning fuming to T.S. about "the shit you pulled last night..." and one of the TV executives mentions "the fiasco at the Governor's Ball."
What does this mean for the film? It means it starts agonizingly slow. Gone is the hook-you-right-in teaser involving Brodie Bruce's monologue about his Cousin Walter and the gerbil (done masterfully by the one-and-only-and-boy-do-I-mean-it Jason Lee) as the mall is established as the main setting. The 12 minutes prior to the credits with T.S. and Brandi has only one purpose: to create a solid background on why Svenning hates T.S. so much. Yet with that sequence and COUNTLESS lame references to T.S. ruining the Governor's Ball (that go on throughout the entire movie) we now have to wait over 15 minutes before being introduced to Brodie, we don't arrive at the mall for nearly a half hour and most importantly, Jay and Silent Bob don't show up until 33 minutes into the film. And for what? A little back-story on why Svenning hates T.S.? Unnecessary!
In addition to the opening sequence and the many lame callbacks to it, there are a lot of scenes that were thankfully cut out of this version. For example, the Julie Dwyer subplot over Brandi having to do the game show is gone as well, thus severing that solid story that continued from Clerks, into Mallrats and then into Smith's next film, Chasing Amy. To list all the gags that tie back into the Governor’s Ball sequence would be futile. Instead, I can claim that I could go without a gag about Jay & Bob killing kittens, I don't need to know that Brandi was conceived when Jared was 14 and Mrs. Svenning was 15, and I could've gone a lifetime without ever hearing:
JAY: Holy shit...you spoke!
SILENT BOB: I've just never had anything good to say before!
But now now, understand, I'm just affirming with fact what Kevin said to be true. And while this truly is "The Version That Should Never Have Been," but there are some a few good bits in it that are exclusive to this version. There's the explanation of why in the theatrical cut you can see Tricia (Renée Humphrey) and La Fours (Sven Thorsen) being so close in the credits sequence, with a fine laugh in tow. The scene with Walt (Walter Flanagan) & Steve-Dave (Bryan Johnson) is slightly longer, and it's always good to see more of those guys. The 37 gag continues in a much less subtle fashion. While Walt's hockey jersey has the number 37 on the back (a number repeated in all of Smith's films, sans Jersey Girl) a banner at the Governor’s Ball claims it's the "37th Annual Governor’s Ball." Miss Ivannah saying "Mmmm. Cherry" after putting the nipple in her mouth in a nice touch as well. And perhaps the one reason why this version is worth checking out, a shot of Ben Affleck's face as he is anally probed in prison. I'm not even fucking kidding about that last one.
So, ten years and four films after Mallrats, it still remains the only Kevin Smith movie that Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier didn't have final cut on. And although Paul Dixon never went on to greater things after 'rats (the last thing he cut was See Arnold Run, an A&E movie crapped out to capitalize on Arnold Schwarzenegger election as the governor of California) his editing job for Mallrats is to be commended. While there should be no discredit to Smith, after all he wrote and directed all the great stuff that myself and millions more have fallen in love with in the original, 94 minute cut of the movie, it was Dixon that salvaged all the great parts of the film while leaving the worse bits out. In the process, Dixon turned an overlong 2 hour film with a lot of solid gags, interesting characters and solid potential into a great movie. And although the only compliment that Smith can dig up for Dixon on the DVD is calling him "an able-bodied editor," perhaps he owes a little more to Dixon than he thinks. I’m sure there's a chance that if the original 2-hour, Kev/Mos edited cut of Mallrats had been the cut that the world had seen, there's a possibility that Smith would've never had a third shot at the biz. Which would've been a damn shame.
Regardless of its flaws, any fan of Mallrats should take in The Extended Edition of the film at least once and marvel in Mallrats - The Version That Should Never Have Been...and thankfully, wasn't.