Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Columbia Pictures, PG)

film_paul-blart_sm.jpgWhile it can be a bit fun to watch Blart pick off the baddies one by one, it never fills the funny quota.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Never before has a New Jersey mall seen a sad-sack employee like Paul Blart (Kevin James). The single dad can’t find a date, lives with his mom, continually embarrasses himself at work, and has failed the New Jersey state trooper exam eight times.

Blart, though, is not one for giving up easily. He soothes his frayed resolve by taking his gig as a security guard absolutely seriously. Even while his superiors are satisfied with sitting around and letting minor infractions slide, Blart does everything by the book. And often gets his ass handed to him by shoppers who doubt his actual power. But, when a band of criminals shut down Blart’s mall and take his dream girl, Amy (Jayma Mays), and others hostage, he decides to show everyone what he’s really made of.

Let Paul Blart: Mall Cop be a lesson to every comedian who had a long-running television show: Just because your show did well doesn’t mean you can write a whole movie successfully. The film is too slow (particularly at the beginning), often unfunny, and nowhere near slapsticky enough.

Another problem with the movie is that, while Blart isn’t unlikable, the film doesn’t really make us feel for him, either. The first half hour or so is spent showing the audience how pitiful Blart is, but doesn’t deliver one of those "Awww" moments where we think, "Man, I really want this guy to get something he wants." Maybe if James and co-writer Nick Bakay had given that to us, the first part of the film wouldn’t feel so interminably long and pointless.

We also don’t get a character with much personality. The filmmakers establish early that Blart has seemingly useless facts knocking around in his head. It would have been great, for instance, if they’d used this trait to show the audience how Blart came up with his ideas for besting the bad guys. But they don’t, so it’s another wasted opportunity.

While it can be a bit fun to watch Blart pick off the baddies one by one, it never fills the funny quota. They attempt to make fun of the standard Michael Bay-style action flick, but don’t take the gags far enough. For every slow-motion shot of Blart walking toward the camera, there needed to be one of the gang leader laughing manically, or one of his hooligans going out in a blaze of defeat.

James is an amiable performer, and he certainly makes a convincing loser. It’s possible, though, that he might have jumped the gun on writing and starring in his own movie. | Adrienne Jones

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