Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Movie Information

The Story: A security guard at a New Jersey mall attempts to foil a robbery and rescue the hostages. The Lowdown: Flat, predictable, stale and alarmingly unfunny, the film attempts to skate by on audience goodwill toward its star.
Score:

Genre: Comedy
Director: Steve Carr (Are We Done Yet?)
Starring: Kevin James, Keir O'Donnell, Jayma Mays, Raini Rodriguez, Shirley Knight
Rated: PG

There’s nothing quite like the words “Happy Madison Productions” appearing on the screen to diminish my expectations concerning the movie about to unfold. Unfortunately, the pall of gloom that settled over me the moment prior to the actual start of Paul Blart: Mall Cop wasn’t quite sufficient to brace me for the spectacularly unfunny 80-odd minutes that followed. As Happy Madison productions go, it does have the advantage of being considerably less actively obnoxious than your average Rob Schneider vehicle. Alas, this doesn’t keep Paul Blart from being passively bad—and that may actually be worse.

The apparent idea was to boost Kevin James from the realm of genial supporting player—Hitch (2005), I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007)—to some kind of stardom. The idea may have merit. The one-joke premise of the resulting movie is another matter. The fact that James cowrote the film lays the blame pretty squarely on him, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t factor in the largely nonexistent direction of Steve Carr, the man who brought us Are We Done Yet? (2007). Judging by the movie’s holiday setting, it would seem as if the folks at Happy Madison and Columbia Pictures didn’t think the results were terribly inspiring and chose to dump it in the annual January white sale of stinkers rather than release it during the holiday season. The irony is that opening-day business suggests that there actually is a market for movies predicated on the idea that a fat guy on a Segway is howlingly funny. All I can say is cross yourself quick and offer up a prayer to H.L. Mencken.

If you’ve been fortunate enough to have missed the trailers and the ad campaign, you perhaps need to know that James plays Paul Blart, a mall security guard with dreams of being a real policeman, despite an inability to make it through police academy. The film opens with him failing at this and seeking solace in his family—consisting of his mother (Shirley Knight, Grandma’s Boys) and daughter (Raini Rodriguez)—and food, before returning to his unglamorous job. Things aren’t helped by his insistence on taking his job so seriously—and performing it so ineptly. He’s a joke to his coworkers, though the picture seems to brighten when the pretty girl, Amy (Jayma Mays, Epic Movie), at the hair-extension kiosk is nice to him, even to the extent of inviting him to go along to a karaoke bar with the rest of the employees. Accidental drunkenness and mirth ensue. Well, the first does, the mirth merely tries to.

Things change when a gang of thieves take over the mall late in the day on Black Friday, taking a few hostages—including Amy, of course—and inadvertently affording Paul the opportunity to demonstrate his latent heroic qualities. A degree in cinema—or possibly even an elementary-school diploma—isn’t necessary to guess just how this will play out, which wouldn’t matter so much if any aspect of it were particularly clever or funny or suspenseful. The movie simply runs through the standard playbook for this kind of comedy/thriller with the dull, rote quality of a fourth grader reciting the multiplication tables.

The whole enterprise is grounded in the idea that Kevin James is so inherently lovable that the viewer will be in his corner at every turn. I think this overstates James’ appeal, elevating an innate likeability a notch or two higher than it deserves. At the same time, there’s the whole fantasy issue of his character ending up with the hot girl. Even granting that the film stacks the deck by making the other men around her either outright skunks, or so marginalized as to be non-characters, this rings false—especially with a character who finds no prospective matches on an online dating service. What is it with this particularly male fantasy? With the exception of Shallow Hall (2001)—where the prize is Jack Black, who isn’t exactly male-model material—how many movies are there where a plus-size gal ends up with a hot guy on the strength of her inner qualities? Think about it and get back to me. Rated PG for some violence, mildly crude and suggestive humor, and language.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

26 thoughts on “Paul Blart: Mall Cop

  1. luluthebeast

    I think it’s rather sad when a movie like this takes the top picture of the week. I had a much better time watching A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH!

  2. Ken Hanke

    I think it’s rather sad when a movie like this takes the top picture of the week. I had a much better time watching A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH!

    Hell, I had a better time watching Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo.

  3. Chad Nesbitt

    Hanke,

    If you don’t like it, I probably will. LOL.
    But I think I’ll rent that one.

    Hey, by the way, STAR TREK IS COMING – May 2009!

  4. “I think it’s rather sad when a movie like this takes the top picture of the week. I had a much better time watching A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH!”

    If you’re talking about the Powell film, I watched that twice this weekend. Absolutely stunning. I watched AGE OF CONSENT three times… or the Helen Mirren parts three times. Yeow!

  5. Ken Hanke

    I watched AGE OF CONSENT three times… or the Helen Mirren parts three times. Yeow!

    If you’re that keen on seeing Helen Mirren, we’ll have to fix you up with a copy of Russell’s Savage Messiah. To quote from the poster’s review breakout, “Reveals Miss Helen Mirren full-frontal in a scene longer than the normal glimpse.”

  6. Ken Hanke

    Justin must have won the coin toss this time.

    And yet he sat through most of this thing with me. Of course, I sat through High School Musical with him, so I can’t say much.

  7. Justin Souther

    And yet he sat through most of this thing with me.

    Twenty minutes tops, but I’m sure it seemed longer.

    And Ken didn’t want to drive to the Beaucatcher to see Notorious, so that’s how he ended up with Paul Blart. The only thing Ken hates more than the prospects of a bad movie are being inconvenienced.

  8. T_REX

    and so begins the annual Jan-March crap/hail storm
    dumped on us by the studios. Maybe “Watchmen” will be the light at the end of this sewer pipe.

  9. Ken Hanke

    The only thing Ken hates more than the prospects of a bad movie are being inconvenienced.

    Boy, are you jockeying for Pink Panther 2.

  10. luluthebeast

    I couldn’t believe they were making a Pink Panther II until I saw how much it made overseas and in dvd sales.

    It would be a fitting punishment though!

  11. Justin Souther

    Boy, are you jockeying for Pink Panther 2.

    Oh, like I wasn’t going to get that anyway.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Oh, like I wasn’t going to get that anyway

    Well, it’s up against Push and He’s Not That Into You, so you stood a chance.

  13. Well, it’s up against Push and He’s Not That Into You, so you stood a chance.

    Sitting in the lobby of the Carolina 13 waiting for the Rocky Horror screening to start, they had the trailer for He’s Not That Into You on a loop on a monitor. Ugh. If I were Justin, I’d be begging for Pink Panther 2

  14. Justin Souther

    they had the trailer for He’s Not That Into You on a loop on a monitor. Ugh. If I were Justin, I’d be begging for Pink Panther 2…

    But it’s from the director of Dunston Checks In! And stars Drew Barrymore! And Ben Affleck! All it’s missing is Ashton Kutcher and a cameo by Sallie Field and we’re talking the kind of transcendence not seen since the last Zach Braff picture.

    On second thought, I think you’re right.

  15. Sean Williams

    Maybe “Watchmen” will be the light at the end of this sewer pipe.

    If there is any justice in the world!

    On the other hand, it’s being directed by Zach Snyder.

  16. Ken Hanke

    On the other hand, it’s being directed by Zach Snyder

    And the trailer looks it!

  17. T_Rex

    “On the other hand, it’s being directed by Zach Snyder ”

    It can only be a step UP from 300

  18. saulchase

    There is a movie where the pudgy girl gets the good-looking guy: Hairspray

  19. Ken Hanke

    There is a movie where the pudgy girl gets the good-looking guy: Hairspray

    An excellent observation — and one can almost credit it as two movies, though the musical is only following the dictates of the John Waters original.

  20. Dread P. Roberts

    It can only be a step UP from 300

    I REALLY hope so. The “Watchmen” graphic novel is so well written, and I am terrified of Snyder dissecting and hollywood-izing such a precious piece of literature. In any case, I don’t intend to participate in the impending fanboy bashing. I hate that sort of thing.

  21. Will

    I never want to see this movie, but I did like the poster. I like how serious he looks, and how there are absolutely no wacky antics going on. Just Kevin James looking serious.

  22. Michael

    I just want to say that it was a funny movie with a romance plot that was kinda true to how some guys feel too. I don’t know why you have to hate on the movie so much I know we have all seen way worse. Oh yeah everyone from Asheville, NC is a stuck up hippie you all need to get out more the world doesn’t revolve around you.

  23. Vince Lugo

    I refuse to ever see this on the grounds that they stole the screenplay. I have forgotton where I read that, but apparently, the only contribution Kevin James made was adding the sedgeway. Everything else was stolen outright and the studio apparently sent someone to the actual screenwriter to give him hush money so he wouldn’t sue. If I were him, I would have sued anyway, even if the original screenplay was just as bad. There’s a princible involved here.

  24. T_REX

    I just want to say that it was a funny movie with a romance plot that was kinda true to how some guys feel too. I don’t know why you have to hate on the movie so much I know we have all seen way worse. Oh yeah everyone from Asheville, NC is a stuck up hippie you all need to get out more the world doesn’t revolve around you.

    If we ever run out of sources for name calling we can always rely on movie posts.

    I will give this movie a chance but I will not pay money for it.

  25. Ken Hanke

    If we ever run out of sources for name calling we can always rely on movie posts.

    I’m still trying to figure out which stuck-up hippie claimed that he or she hadn’t seen worse movies. Just because there are worse movies than Paul Blart doesn’t make it good.

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