I cannot begin to describe how much Kevin Smith’s ‘Mallrats’ means to me. It was the very first time I saw people as passionate about Malls as I was up on the big screen, and it served to cement my love for Shopping Centres and their unique culture and characters. The movie was filmed in the Eden Prairie Centre in Minnesota, and over twenty years later, Kevin Smith decided to quietly return to the Mall to do a live walkthrough of the experience, talking about the movie and how much has changed as he went along. It was nostalgic, slightly sad and I wished it went on for twenty hours longer than it did!
Most of the stream is a close-up of Kevin Smith's face, but seeing his various expressions of nostalgia and recollection really made my day
Smith and the cast during the filming of Mallrats twenty-two years ago
Mallrats was released in 1995 and was Smith’s vital follow-up to his independent cult hit Clerks. This time he had more clout and a far larger budget; as such he took filming out of his hometown convenience store in Leonardo, New Jersey at took it into the Mall. He also brought along the cast he wanted around him, despite requests from the studio to feature more famous actors. The film was set in Smith’s New Jersey ‘Askewniverse’, but the Mall was actually in chilly Eden Prairie Minnesota. The film did not do well, to put it mildly. It was a John Hughes-esque movie featuring the angst and antics of a group of young people, and I assert that if it was released six years earlier it would’ve been a huge success. Unfortunately the world had moved on; but once it was released on home video it found its audience - big time.
Smith famously apologised for the film soon after its release, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek manner which flew over the heads of those who don’t understand Smith’s self-deprecating humour. The truth is that he loved the flick and the people he had around him, and this comes out vividly in subsequent interviews, Q&A’s and in the walk-through he did just last month. Much has changed in Eden Prairie Centre, it is alive and well after all, but some things remain the same. The stream starts with something as seemingly inconsequential as the Mall’s escalators, which Kevin notices have remained untouched. I mention this because they are the source of a famous running joke throughout the film; Smith recalls this as he beams like only a Mallrat can do at the thought of Mall escalators. In fact, he is beaming throughout the stream as only a Mall fan could when they enter a Mall they haven’t seen in 22 years.
A few fans spotted Smith while he was at the Mall and, as always, he was more than obliging when they asked for a snap
As he enters the main atrium of the Mall, he recalls that it used to be where the food court once was. He moves towards the elevator, which has a new facelift of wood panelling and dark paint, but otherwise remains exactly the same. This is the elevator where Brodie makes his last attempt to make up with ex-girlfriend Rene - as fans of the film will know, he both failed miserably and succeeded spectacularly! Memories come flooding back as he recalls standing atop the elevator in his Silent Bob Batman helmet, ready to fly. Totally unlike Smith, there are moments where he is truly speechless, his mind recalling the time Eden Prairie Centre was the focal point of his life and trying to figure out the various filming spots in the Mall. He says, simply, ‘this is home’!
The Eden Prairie Centre as it is today
He ends the stream describing how important this Centre was for him, and thanks us all for following him since then. I have found that a Smith fan is a Smith fan for life. The comments on the stream are truly heartening, with lifelong fans professing their love for Mallrats and the Eden Prairie Centre. Of course, there are also the requisite ‘why does he always wear the same thing!?’ questions peppered throughout - par for the course!
While the film used fake store names and set up faux storefronts, some real brands can be seen and some are even still operating in the Centre
So what else has changed? Well, for starters the parking lot has shrunk due to the giant new AMC Cinema complex which has been built. However, you can still see the giant water tower in the background which can be seen in the movie. Most of the exterior of the actual Mall is exactly the same, so many outside scenes can be recreated or retraced. One particularly poignant feature is the fact that even the exterior trees are exactly the same, but are now grown, as opposed to 22 years ago when there were mere shoots - the Mall was pretty much newly built at the time of filming, after all.
Willam trying desperately to see the sailboat
The two greatest characters to hit the big screen: TS and Brodie!
The interior of the Mall, while structurally the same, has had major refurbishment work done to modernise the space. There is wood panelling everywhere, complimented by the seemingly enormous number of wooden seating dotted around. The old red, black and white scheme has been replaced by off-white and woodgrain. Of course, most of the stores were rebranded with low-brow store names in the movie, so all of the stores are completely different. However, you can certainly match up certain stores to certain scenes. The climactic final act, where the ‘Truth or Date’ game is in full swing in the atrium, can still be perfectly placed in the Centre.
Now, over twenty years later, the Mallrats family is as close as ever (from top-left: Stan Lee, Kevin Smith, Michael Rooker and Jason Mewes)
One thing to note is that most of the props for the film, including parts of this stage, have completely disappeared; Smith himself has no idea where anything ended up, but expounds that the likely resting place was a dumpster somewhere in Minnesota. What I’d give to lay my hands on the heart-shaped clear pink perspex podium used in the film. The only thing remaining is found in Smith’s ‘Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash’ comic book store in Red Bank - it is the grappling gun used by Silent Bob to escape from Scandinavian security cyborg Team La Fours in one particular scene. A real tragedy.
The main entrance in the film (bottom) and as it appears today (top)
Despite any superficial differences, the Mall is still certainly worth a visit for any Mallrats fans out there. It’s always hard to fit Eden Prairie Mall into a Jersey Trilogy (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy) pilgrimage because it is so far away from virtually every other filming location, which are concentrated around the Leonardo/Red Bank area of New Jersey (where all of the films are set). However, if you are a fan of Kev’s little Mall movie above all of the others, get down to Minnesota. Who knows, you may even see a cast member or King Mallrat Silent Bob himself wandering, teary-eyed, around this wonderful Centre. One warning though: Be weary, La Fours’ cronies remain hardcore and if security sees you taking pictures or filming, they will come down hard!
The main atrium, with the famous elevator in the background
Twenty-two years later, Kevin is older (47) and slightly wiser (maybe), but he has never forgotten this film for which he once apologised. The then completely unknown cast, including Michael Rooker, Shannen Doherty, Jason Lee, Ben Affleck (his very first film role), Claire Forlani and Ethan Suplee have moved on, becoming big stars in their own right. However, they remain a close-knit Mallrat family and when Smith makes the call, they answer. Unfortunately though, when it comes to Mallrats they will probably not get a call anytime soon - while Kevin Smith owns the Jay and Silent Bob characters, the movie companies own everything else his wonderful mind has created and apparently the jerks would rather block a filmic return to the Mall than make fans happy, even if it is of no consequence to them whatsoever. Cursed bunch.
The elevator, back then and today. Silent Bob can be seen atop the elevator about to make his maiden flight
Given the number of people who watched the stream, and how many comments have been subsequently laid down on his Facebook page, I think many would agree with the glowing sentiments of this story. So here’s to you, Mr. Smith. I was right there in the Mall with you as you wandered around, and I shared the memories which flooded you as you rediscovered the Mall which accented your 20’s. You have given me a gift for which I can neither sufficiently repay you, nor let you know how appreciative I am. While the dream of a Mallrats sequel reluctantly fades, memories of the greatest Mall film ever made will always be in the forefront of my mind as I continue to enter my favourite place on earth - the Shopping Mall!