A deal with Universal led to Mallrats, a Gen-X hang-out movie which takes place in a Clerks-like universe, where nothing seems to happen yet a lot does. Ragged and ribald, the studio-made coedy, which takes aims at the shopping malls subculture, is a sophomore jinx–flat and unfunny. Marred by inept slapstick and draggy pacing, the $6 million movie is an artistic and commercial flop.
In his defense, Smith claimed, “I just wanted to make the kind of kids-lost-in-a-mall type of comedy I grew up watching. I wore the studio label like a badge of honor, but I got crucified for it.” Smith was castigated by the indie community for a perceived sell-out, and most reviewers declared Mallrats a total failure. But for Smith, the experience was liberating: “I would wish a flop on everybody, because you feel afterwards like you have nothing to lose.”