PAUL BLART: MALL COP
**1/2 (out of 5)
January 16, 2009
Kevin James as PAUL BLART
Keir O’Donnell as VECK SIMS
Jayma Mays as AMY
Raini Rodriguez as MAYA BLART
Shirley Knight as MOM
Stephen Rannazzisi as STUART
Peter Gerety as CHIEF BROOKS
Bobby Cannavale as COMMANDER KENT
Directed by: Steve Carr
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
January is a particularly interesting time for movies. On one hand, there’s a flood of arthouse films which all got limited releases during the holiday season and are finally making their way through flyover country. There’s also all the holdovers from the big Christmas push.
Then there’s the regular wide releases in January. Usually, it’s a pretty good bet that these films aren’t going to be very good. They’re not going to win any awards, and they can’t compete with monster box office hits in the holidays. Instead, they are often geared towards a specific audience, and you have to look at them in their context.
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop” is very typical of a January release. However, since recent years have given us such terrible movies as “Norbit” and “Meet the Spartans,” I’ve set my critical bar pretty low for these movies. In this context, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” ain’t that bad.
The movie stars Kevin James in his first solo vehicle. He plays Paul Blart, an overzealous security guard at a mall who struggles with his personal life. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, Blart finds himself to be the last line of defense when a group of criminals break into the mall, take several people hostage and plan to steal credit card data from all the stores.
While I’ve never watched “King of Queens,” I know that James is a popular figure. As a comedy wingman, he works very well. We saw him score in films like “Hitch” and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” but he was always working with a major box office draw. Alone in the security guard outfit, he struggles with “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”
The first half of the film is really rough. The filmmakers try to give empathy to Blart and build the backstory of his character. He’s flanked by his daughter from a green card marriage and his over-supportive mother. The character’s nature is meant to elicit some sympathy from the audience, but instead we’re left wondering why he became such a tool.
By the time we get over the mid-way hump of the film, characterization is over, fortunately. We’re then left with a series of slapstick gags featuring Kevin James taking pratfalls and other general shenanigans. This is when I started to get into the film. Forget the rocky character development. Give me a fat guy falling down, and I’ll start to laugh.
Ultimately, if I’m going to like one half of the film, I’d rather it be the second half. At least then we’ll go out on a high note.
Cast as the love interest for Paul Blart is the adorable Jayma Mays, whom many might recognize from television shows like “Heroes” and “Ugly Betty.” She’s an up-and-coming star, and I expect her to have Reese Witherspoon status in a few years. However, she’s completely underused in this film. While Mays has a strong comedic bent, she’s left to just look adorable and bat her huge eyes.
It’s clear that “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” is Kevin James’ movie, and I give the dude credit for getting a solo vehicle. But like the Segway that the character drives in the film, this vehicle doesn’t have a whole lot of power to it.