Paul Blart: Mall Cop
I'm in a very odd position
for a movie reviewer. Less than a week ago I did a pretty negative
review of Slumdog Millionaire - the critical darling of the moment -
in which I had to acknowledge that I just didn't really like it.
Now I am writing a review
of an Adam Sandler-produced formula comedy called Paul Blart: Mall Cop,
which has and deserves no real critical notice and damned if I'm not going
to give it a relatively good review.
This can't be a good sign.
I may have to leave my critic's credentials at the door.
Obviously, that is not to
say that Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a better movie than Slumdog
Millionaire. It lays no claim to any kind of artistic sweep or
deep meaning. Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a merely a silly comedy,
sometimes smart and sometimes very stupid, but it has heart and a bit of soul. Its aims are much more modest and
it does a better job of finding its own water level. Also, on the high
vs. lowbrow scale, Paul Blart: Mall Cop was not the one of these two
films that showed one of its characters covered head to toe in feces. Fact
is, even if it was not as well-made a movie, just on a
gut level, I enjoyed Mall Cop more than I did its more acclaimed cousin. So
I honestly didn't have high
hopes for Paul Blart. Star and co-screenwriter Kevin James was
hysterical on his long-lived series The King of Queens and stole the
cute romantic comedy Hitch from his better-known co-star Will Smith.
However, somewhere along the line, James hooked up with Adam Sandler, who
used James in small roles in a couple of bad films, before co-starring him
in the completely unwatchable I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.
Sandler is back behind the
scenes here, mostly as a money man, though. The writing was done by
James and Nick Bakay (the sportcaster-turned-comic who may be best known for
the brilliant voicing of Salem the cat on the 90s TV series Sabrina: The
Teenaged Witch.) You do feel Sandler's influence in spots: the
goofy jokes, the gratuitous hurting of small animals, the mindless action sequences, the
soppy 80s power ballads (though you do have to respect a movie that would
use Survivor's "I Can't Hold Back" - not once but twice!).
However, greatly due to
James' likability as an actor and a sad sack, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is
a rather clever and good hearted parody of the Die Hard series in
which a normal man alone must take on a deadly criminal gang who has taken a
Of course, unlike Bruce
Willis, James' character isn't a decorated cop who is infiltrating a
skyscraper - he is a rent-a-cop at a fictional mall in West Orange, New
Jersey. It's not for lack of trying, Blart has been trying to get into
the police for years, but his weight, lack of coordination and hypoglycemia
(he passes out if he doesn't get any sugar every few hours) have kept him
from the force.
Instead, he patrols the
stores on his segway, taking his law-enforcing responsibilities as seriously
as any policeman, despite the fact that he is mocked by employees and the
customers. Blart is also lovelorn, left by his Mexican bride (she just
wanted a green card, but did give him a daughter), living with that daughter
and his mother and getting nearly desperate enough to try internet dating.
He has fallen for a woman (Jayma Mays) who sells hair extensions at one of
the mall's kiosks, but he is too shy to tell her. Then, when he meets
her out with other employees, he ends up making a fool of himself.
Life has convinced Blart he
is a loser, however when the mall is attacked - and people, including his
crush, are being held hostage, Blart has to snap into action. Of
course the action is mostly comic - Paul Blart is mostly a film for
kids, so the violence is mostly downplayed and cartoonish - all the better
to keep the PG rating. However, James' enthusiastic and good humored
portrayal is reminiscent of John Candy's characters of overweight but
completely optimistic losers.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
will not be honored on Oscar night - even in the technical categories - and
that is as it should be. The movie has no pretentions to being
anything other than a goofy kids' comedy, and thanks to its strong central
performance it succeeds surprisingly well.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: January 14, 2009.