Can Kevin Smith Find Success With Sequels to ’90s Cult Hits?

It seems like not so long ago that cult favorite director Kevin Smith was threatening retirement, frustrated with changes in how films get financed over the course of his career. Now the director has a full plate of work for the next two years consisting of films in his Canadian series and sequels to his ’90s cult classics. Most recently Smith announced that in addition to a third Clerks film, he’s planning a sequel to his other cult classic comedy celebrating slackers, Mallrats, that he believes will film in 2016. The announcement comes as the 1995 film celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Smith hinted at the project on Twitter before speaking about the Mallrats sequel more in-depth on the Tucson radio station Rock 102 KFMA. “It’s half-scripted right now, and we’re pulling our loot together. We’ve got up until the beginning of 2016. By the time we get to May 2016, we’re going to be shooting,” Smith said.

“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Smith continued. “Lately I’ve been doing this thing where I’m like ‘Do you want to do what’s good for your career or do you just want to have fun?’ Nobody’s clamoring for a Mallrats sequel, but I would love to make one. It’s been like 20 years.”

Similarly to Clerks, Mallrats didn’t perform well at the box office but has built a significant cult following over the years due to Smith’s unique voice, weird perspective, and penchant for making society’s losers and slackers into his movies’ subjects. The first sequel to Clerks was the financial success that the first film wasn’t, making over $26 million worldwide on a budget of just $5 million according to Box Office Mojo. It wasn’t quite as well-received critically as Clerks was, but was one of Smith’s rare financial successes as a filmmaker.

Mallrats only made a little over $2 million during its time in theaters, but the film’s reputation as a cult hit has grown in the intervening 20 years. Mallrats stars Jeremy London and Jason Lee as a couple of loser-ish guys who go to loiter at the mall for some solace after getting dumped by their girlfriends, played by Shannon Doherty and Claire Forlani. There are guest appearances from Stan Lee, Ben Affleck, and of course Jay and Silent Bob among others as various shenanigans ensue.

Where Clerks was lauded for its originality, Mallrats was seen by critics as a failure of a follow-up. The movie has become a cult hit, but critics don’t afford it the same level of credibility as Clerks. “If the Sundance Institute or the AFI ever offers a course advising directors of successful first films what to avoid the second time around, Mallrats could be at the heart of the curriculum,” said The Los Angeles Times. This could end up affecting how many people come out to the theaters interested in seeing the sequel.

The sequel to Mallrats is so far out that it’s uncertain for now if any of the original cast will return. Between wrapping Clerks 3 and making Mallrats 2, Smith is making two more movies in his Canadian series that began with the bizarro horror film Tusk. That film is credited with the recent revival of the director’s career and he’s been creatively invigorated by working in Canada. He recently wrapped the movie Yoga Hosers, starring his and Johnny Depp’s teenage daughters, in the country. Hit Somebody will be a hockey epic and possibly a miniseries according to /Film, and Moose Jaws will be about what it sounds like, a horror movie like Jaws except with a killer moose.

Smith has never been the type of filmmaker to care whether critics like his movies or whether his movies are successful financially. He said himself he wants to do the Mallrats sequel for personal pleasure more than to satisfy anyone. But Mallrats 2 could end up having the same luck as the Clerks sequel at the box office due to its cult following even though no one’s been asking for it.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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