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Home Blog Popcorn Parent Movie Reviews Movie Tuesday: Paul Blart: Mall Cop (PG)

Movie Tuesday: Paul Blart: Mall Cop (PG)

Editor’s Note: This is a repost of an old article that was eaten by our recent website upgrade. Enjoy it again, or for the first time.


Sad Boys, Sad Boys
Whatchya gonna do?
By Jared Peterson

In his first starring feature-film role, Kevin James, the once and future King of Queens, plays Paul Blart, saddest of the sad sacks. Hovering in his forties, Paul still lives with his mother. (Note to screenwriters: this comic setup is has reached retirement; it’s time to find your own place.) He was once duped and abandoned in a marriage of convenience that gave his bride a green card and left him with both a bruised heart and a beloved daughter (Raini Rodriguez), whom he’s raising on his own. His aspirations to legitimate law enforcement are thwarted by his doughy physique and a tendency to drop into a narcoleptic stupor when his blood sugar gets too low. He’s not a hit with the ladies, either.

Such a man will cling to relevance however he can, and Paul soberly directs his energies toward the security needs of a suburban New Jersey mall, which allows him the dubious honor of a fake badge and the use of a tricked-out Segway. (Note to screenwriters: Segways are always funny—keep ‘em coming.) His duties include absorbing abuse from customers and colleagues, performing ineffectual crowd control and mediating disputes over the last pair of unmentionables at Victoria’s Secret (Not as easy—or awesome—as it sounds.) Paul is also nursing a crush on a young woman named Amy (the professionally adorable Jayma Mays) who works at one of the mall’s kiosks. Amy is gracious with his timid overtures and forgiving of his quirks—for example, he nervously offers up “fun facts” to keep the conversation going. (Fun fact: I myself have never done anything like that. Nope, never.) Inevitably, Paul bungles what might have been a good thing. But when Amy is taken hostage by a well-organized band of mallrats pulling a daring heist on the biggest shopping day of the year, Paul Blart, Mall Cop, springs into action… then falls down… then gets up… and so on.

Written by James himself, with fellow “King of Queens” writer Nick Bakay, Mall Cop’s sitcom premise and rather flat dialogue seem like a hastily-drawn framework for showcasing its star’s comedic gifts. Thankfully, he has one or two to offer. What he lacks in range he manages to make up in texture, revealing the awkward nooks and crannies of a man utterly in his own way. (As he fumbles from challenge to challenge, his rallying cry is an increasingly desperate plea to himself to “Think, think, think.”) James lets his unwieldy frame telegraph his character’s vulnerability, a talent cultivated by other outsized actors. But James wears his bulk lightly. He never seems overweight—just, perhaps, inflated past specifications. His gift for physical comedy is borne of the twin disciplines of precision and absolute commitment, whether running full-tilt into a pair of unyielding plate glass doors or tumbling tail-over-teakettle like some defectively wobbling Weeble. Most impressive of all, his best gags unspool in wide, uninterrupted space, with no edits or trickery to punch up the disaster.

As indicated, there is an unrelenting stream of slapstick here, much of it with real sting. It would be difficult to catalog it all, smack by smack—just imagine the brutal inventiveness of Tom and Jerry, then give Jerry a cop moustache and insert another two dozen Toms. Heads and bodies take many, many wince-inducing blows (only one breaks the skin, and it’s just a boo-boo); and a couple bad guys fall from heights to uncertain fates. There is some gunplay, resulting in loud but unmistakably perilous near-misses; and one baddie verbally threatens to put a bullet in someone’s brain. At one point, Paul’s Segway accidentally clips a yelping dog; it happens below the frame, and after a second the dog is back to barking. (So, funny, right?) A couple of scenes rely on an uninspired Indian-American stereotype that wanders a bit too close to the Kwik-E-Mart. Alcohol is consumed at an after-work happy hour, where Paul, who is a pretty cheap date, gets silly, and then sloppy, and then falls out a window. The film goes easy on the bathroom humor and general crudeness—two or three mild swears, one or two rude rejoinders and a single reference to pee.

At a January 17th screening, the following films were previewed: The Pink Panther 2 (PG); Planet 51 (not yet rated), a computer-animated alien invasion in reverse; Race to Witch Mountain (not yet rated), apparently a place you can’t just escape to anymore; Dragonball Evolution (not yet rated), based on a Japanese animation juggernaut; and New in Town (PG-13), starring Renée Zellweger, who had her face sanded for the occasion.

Jared Peterson, judging by that crack about Renée Zellweger, needs to take a break from watching “The Soup”. More impertinent celeb-bashing at http:proweirdo.blogspot.com.

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