Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Director : Steve Carr
Screenplay : Kevin James & Nick Bakay
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2009
Stars : 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), Jamal Mixon (Leon), Adhir Kalyan (Pahud)
There is always something inherently amusing about a person who takes his or her job too seriously, especially when said person is a security guard at a suburban shopping mall who spends his days cruising around on a Segway PT breaking up disputes over bras at Victoria’s Secret and trying in vain to get an elderly man in a motorized wheelchair to pull over for “driving recklessly.” Such is the life of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, who is played by Kevin James as a variation on Albert Brennaman, the love-smitten accountant he played in Hitch (2005). Like Albert, Paul Blart is essentially a good man, but he’s also something of a doofus; unlike Albert, Blart ultimately doesn’t need help from Will Smith when it comes time to step into his own.
Unfortunately, the movie itself, which was cowritten by James and King of Queens writer and sometimes actor Nick Bakay, is a good-natured, but awkward and often unfunny comedy that bounces from sad-sack pathos to slapstick action parody. Some of the ideas are good, but they’re too limited for a feature film; it is essentially a seven-minute Saturday Night Live sketch drawn out and heavily padded to 85 minutes. Blart is, in his own way, an endearing character, and you can’t help but admire his goofy perseverance and ability to absorb insult even if the movie around him is so depressingly thin.
When we first meet Blart, he is trying (again) to join the New Jersey state troopers, but his hypoglycemia gets the best of him (again) and he fails the exit exam. Thus, it’s back to his home life where he lives with his mom (Shirley Knight) and his teenage daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez), whose mother, an illegal immigrant who just wanted to use Blart for citizenship, took off years ago. Blart is going on 10 years as a mall security guard, a position he takes with extreme seriousness, much to the annoyance of all the other guards around him who see their job as something to endure, not cherish. This goes for the new trainee, Veck Sims (Keir O’Donnell), who rolls his eyes at all of Blart’s overly stern attempts to enforce mall security and openly admits that the only reason he’s there is because he couldn’t get another job. When not patrolling the mall, Blart is attempting to catch the eye of Amy (Jayma Mays), a Kewpie-doll-eyed girl who works at the hair-extension kiosk, although he is constantly being challenged and put down by Stuart (Stephen Rannazzisi), the lothario who sells pens in the kiosk next door.
However, Blart has a chance to prove himself (don’t all underdogs?) when a gang of tattooed thugs take over the mall with the purpose of ripping off the information from all the credit card machines (at least, I think that’s what they were doing). The entire heist scenario, which involves the gang running out all the shoppers and then cruising around the mall on BMX bikes and skateboards or else acrobatically somersaulting from the balconies is just plain bizarre, but it creates a situation in which Blart is the lone hero trapped inside and there are hostages (including Amy) to be rescued. While the SWAT team camped in the parking lot outside pleads with him to come out, Blart decides to stay true to his security guard oath (which he made up himself, by the way) and rescue the hostages.
At this point, the movie shifts gears into an action parody, with its underlying scenario a clear play on Die Hard (1988), although it also reserves a few amusing stabs at Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), particularly in a sequence taking place in a Rainforest Cafe. Blart uses his knowledge of the mall to his advantage, which allows for a few clever bits, but never enough to fully justify the movie as a whole. It’s certainly hard not to root for such a likable underdog to succeed, but at the same time you’re also rooting for him to hurry up and finish so the movie can end.
Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick
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