Monday, June 15, 2009

DVD Views: Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Paul Blart: Mall Cop * ½
Directed by:
Steve Carr.
Written By: Kevin James & Nick Bakay.
Starring: Kevin James (Paul Blart), Keir O'Donnell (Veck Sims), Jayma Mays (Amy), Raini Rodriguez (Maya Blart), Shirley Knight (Mom), Stephen Rannazzisi (Stuart), Peter Gerety (Chief Brooks), Bobby Cannavale (Commander Kent), Adam Ferrara (Sergeant Howard).

I like Kevin James. He is lovable is a kind of shy and awkward way, and while I was never a huge fan of his sitcom King of Queens, whenever it comes on TV in reruns, I always get a few laughs out of every episode. In his movie career, he has done a good job as a second banana to Will Smith in Hitch and Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Neither film was all that good, but James was quite good in both. Earlier this year, James had a surprise hit with his first solo starring effort, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which not only did he star in, he also helped to produce and write. I’m glad it was successful, because that means that James will have an easier time getting movies off the ground. I just wish the movie was better. James, the actor, is as charming and self effacing as ever. But everything that goes on around him is quite simply terrible.

Paul Blart is a man who dreams of being a member of the State Police, and every year he passes the written exam, only to fail at the obstacle course. His hypoglycemia prevents him from passing, because if he doesn’t eat sugar every so often, he passes out. Until he can get his dream job, he spends his days as a mall cop, trying to issue citations to old men on motor scooters, and protecting everyone in the mall. Like Seth Rogen in Observe and Report, he takes the job a little too seriously. Unlike Rogen in that film, Blart is not a psychopath. He is just a lovable loser, with an adorable daughter, a supportive mother and a crush on the new girl in the mall Amy (Jayma Mays) that is probably never going to go anywhere.

Everything changes for Blart one night, when a group of thugs come into the mall, take some hostages, and try to get all the codes for the credit card machines in the mall, which will somehow get them $30 million (I’m not sure how, but it doesn’t really matter). The leader of the group is Veck (Keir O’Donnell), who infiltrated the mall by becoming a mall cop alongside Blart. Amy, and Blart’s daughter, are among the hostages. The only guy inside the mall who can stop them is Blart. The cops are outside, but cannot get close. It’s Blart’s moment to shine.

I liked the movie more in the early scenes, which more or less detailed the day to day life of Blart working in the mall, and having his hopes and dreams shattered. He’s a lovable guy, and James plays him as such. Once the robbery begins however, the movie turns into one scene after another where Blart has to fight off the bad guys – who for some reason are all extreme sports experts – in increasingly improbable, and supposedly hilarious, ways. With the exception of James, no one in the movie really seems to be trying that hard. Mays is a good looking woman, and she alone does seem to be trying, but she is given nothing really to do. The rest of the cast sleepwalks through their roles with so little passion that you simply don’t buy them. The direction by Steve Carr is standard and pedestrian, bringing nothing to the material. James and Nick Bakay’s screenplay simply goes through the motions.

It’s hard to truly hate Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It’s too inoffensive and well meaning for that, and James is charming. But it’s hard to really like it either. There really is nothing here for you to really enjoy. The movie sits there on the screen for 90 minutes, and never really tries too hard to be anything other than it is. And when filmmakers set their sights this low, it’s hard to muster enough enthusiasm to care.

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