REVIEW: Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Produced by: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Barry Bernardi
Written by: Kevin James, Nick Bakay
Edited by: Jeff Freeman
Cinematography by: Russ T. Alsobrook
Music by: Waddy Wachtel
Starring: Kevin James, Jayma Mays, Keir O’Donnell, Bobby Cannavale, Adam Ferrara, Peter Gerety, Stephen Rannazzisi, Jamal Mixon, Adhir Kalyan, Erick Avari, Raini Rodriguez, Shirley Knight, Allen Covert, Jason Ellis, Natascha Hopkins, Mike Escamilla, Rick Thorne, Mike Vallely
You know what the nice thing about Redbox is? They know that when a sequel to a film releases, a lot of people might want to see the original film, too. So they’ll distribute copies of the original film for rental again, no matter how old. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, as you may know, has been recently and inexplicably unleashed upon moviegoers this year after a six year gap since the last incident occurred, and Redbox was kind enough to still stock up on the original to remind us all why we should not feed into the box office of this completely unnecessary and, from all accounts I’ve heard, thoroughly putrid film. Thank you, Redbox. Surely those who gave the film the $88 million it’s accumulated so far at the box office were simply ignoring your warnings.
I heeded it, though, and so you won’t see me reviewing that any time soon – at least not until it, too, shows up at Redbox and I find myself with an unexpected 1-day only free rental again. It had been a while since I’d seen the first, and I had no desire to see it again, as I was certain the first time was certainly all that I would need to see of Paul Blart’s misadventures. However, I got into the mood to review a bad movie again, and, having the aforementioned 1-day pass, I decided, in the name of critic integrity, to go ahead and watch it once again. Though ostensibly a Christmas movie, Paul Blart: Mall Cop was shoved out of the 2008 holiday season by its studio and cast into the stark, wintry wasteland that is January, where typically lesser films that the studio knows will suck will entice people out of the icy weather (and their money out of their pockets) and into the warm, cozy seats of their local cineplex because, as these insane, cold people will undoubtedly be reasoning to themselves, “What else is playing, anyway?”
Paul Blart is a film starring King of Queens star and noted Adam Sandler partner in crime Kevin James as the titular Paul Blart, a hypoglycemic, overweight mall cop. I know this and will never forget this because the movie makes a big deal out of pointing these three things out on an obnoxiously repeated basis in its attempts at humor – a perpetually foreign concept to pretty much all of Happy Madison Productions’ films, it seems. He is also a devoted father to his daughter – a byproduct of a green card marriage to an even more overweight woman from Mexico who has since ditched them both – and an aspiring police officer in training. However, Blart spends most of his days patrolling the mall he works at while making googoo eyes at Amy – a much younger, thinner woman/damsel-to-be who runs one of the mall kiosks – and then going home to his mother and daughter before spending the rest of his night feeling sorry for himself before starting the process over again.
On the night of Black Friday, however, a group of armed thugs take over the mall after conveniently chasing out everyone but a few hostages as well as the oblivious Blart, who finds himself going up solo against the gangsters, who are attempting an elaborate plan to steal a bunch of money – which apparently necessitates guys patrolling around the mall on bikes and skateboards while doing elaborate parkour stunts when they’re not setting up incredibly disappointing explosives and then destroying the very surveillance equipment they used to identify the proper timing to set the bombs off without killing any of the police officers attempting to make their way in on apparently the only entryway they could find. Blart, the only inside man and thus only man for the job, must prove himself a hero and take these guys on and save the day, proving to everyone that, yes, a fat man does have the competency to earn himself a place in this world and earn the love of a woman after all.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that fat people don’t deserve love, nor am I putting down the profession of mall security. (I’m overweight myself – not Kevin James level, mind you, but I’d certainly like to be loved, regardless of that fact, and I also work a relatively unglamorous but worthwhile job, too.) I’m just saying that this breed of underdog hero is not at all an original one, and it’s hard to feel like Paul Blart: Mall Cop makes a worthwhile case for its existence that isn’t based on jokes that been made before, and better, in countless other places. That the movie continues to make a point of poking fun at the fatness of its hero on such a regular basis, however, is something I do have a problem with, not because it’s mean or anything, but because it’s just not very funny, particularly on the 30th attempt at the same joke. I mean, this is a movie that uses a lollipop as essentially Blart’s equivalent to Popeye’s cans of spinach. He also really likes to eat unhealthy desserts compounded with each other when he’s bummed out – even when he’s not eaten his dinner! GASP! At one point, expertly aimed hot sauce is also used as a weapon. (“Now I have a hot sauce. Ho – ho – ho.”)
I’ll give the film this, though – Kevin James isn’t actually a bad lead and not nearly as obnoxious as many of his other Happy Madison brethren. I want to like Kevin James and, by extension, Paul Blart. I even kind of enjoyed The King of Queens for what it was whenever I had it on in the background while I did chores or did homework back before I had Netflix. I do also think there is some merit to the concept of the movie’s plot becoming an entertaining comedy in the right hands. I’m cool with silly throwaway comedies, and I’m also okay with PG-rated, family friendly comedies… you know, just so long as they’re actually good. Unfortunately, again, this is a Happy Madison production – one that’s actually aiming to be a family film and not be a shocking parody one – so it’s been reduced to obnoxiously dumb, cheap laughs – including ones directed at overweight women, which… okay, yeah, nobody’s surprised by the double standard anymore, are they? The jokes are tired and easy because the filmmakers didn’t just make a film appropriate for little kids; they made one for what they perceive little kids to be: idiots.
We know that doesn’t have to be the case, though. Nothing in this film is surprising or clever. Like, when you’re introduced to the douchebag who competes with Blart for the attention of Amy, you know there’s no risk of him winning her over based on how obnoxious he is, but you also know for a fact that the guy will turn out to be the shrillest and most cowardly hostage who is perfectly willing to sell out others for his own safety. He’s the Harry Ellis to Paul Blart’s John McClane in this Die Hard farce, only you’re deprived of seeing the chief villain put a satisfying bullet into his head, too, which is one more notable time when the film’s target rating undermines its full potential. As for that villain? He’s no Hans Gruber, that’s for sure. He’s not even a Colonel Stuart! The actor, whose name I will refrain from sharing, lest you be deprived of all promise of surprise from this movie, seems to think that speaking through one’s teeth and quivering your voice between random spikes in volume is a sign of a perfectly terrifying villain, and he’s written without any consideration for charm or intrigue. He’s just the bad guy who knows he’s evil and demonstrates it by being sarcastic to everyone and barking orders until he’s taken down.
I think the best thing I can say about this film is that it is mostly inoffensive in its existence, though some might be driven mad at just how ineffective it is at getting you to laugh. This is a movie with potential that squanders the potential likability of its star by cramming inane jokes down our throats haphazardly, never managing to provide us with so much as a solitary morsel to chew on. I can’t imagine it getting much worse than that, and yet I hear that the sequel’s even worse. And, yet I’m also wondering if I might at least enjoy ripping apart the sequel more, if only because the superlative levels of awfulness that film achieves might at least make for a more interesting spectacle than the inane rubbish that is the first.
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 1 / 5