Overweight and desperately lonely, mall security guard Paul Blart (James) just wants to get through Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. He's worried about protecting the customers. Having failed the police academy obstacle course a record eight times, the mall job is all he has. Yet his daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) knows he needs someone to spend his life with outside of work. Paul specifically has eyes for kiosk salesgirl Amy (Jayma Mays) but he's just too shy to ask her out. But when a group of criminals led by Veck Sims (Keir O'Donnell) enters the facility and takes hostages, it's up to Blart to save the day... if he can.
At first, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is unfathomably unfunny. The first 45 minutes center around mean-spirited fat jokes, a pair of incredibly awkward slapstick scenes (including one where James fights with a chunky chick in Victoria's Secret -- ugh), and some of the most simplistic character development ever put in a mainstream motion picture. As a benevolent blimp, James is reduced to smiling while people pick on him, his over-emphasized girth the one-wit note the movie relies on to garner some giggles. It's so overdone at one point that we actually feel bad for the actor. Anyone who knows his stand-up act understands James's issues with weight, but the anger expressed by the people Blart must deal with seems almost inhuman.
As this point, we figure that nothing will save this barrel bottom scraping mess, but director Steve Carr (responsible for the reprehensible Ice Cube vehicle Are We Done Yet?) just keeps plugging away. He tosses in incomplete subplots and unappealing ancillary characters and hopes something catches. When the film suddenly turns into Die Hard with fatsos, however, the situation does actually start to improve. Turning James' joke of a security guard into something close to a hero actually removes much of the sting scored at Blart's expense. Instead, the comedy comes directly from our wannabe McClane dealing with his own hindering heftiness. There is just something inherently laughable about a size-52 guy trying to engage in size-32 action man antics. This material acts like CPR to the first part of Mall Cop. Sadly, it can't sustain its resuscitative powers.
Had the movie started off less pathetically, had screenwriters James and buddy Nick Bakay banished the sappy stridence and simply let Blart become a husky champion, we'd have a light little action adventure on our hands here. While not perfect, the thriller spoof works. As it stands, there's just too much pity and not enough witty about the first half of the film, and when you're packaging the King of Queens star as a potential box office draw, emphasizing his weak points seems insane. While fans will probably appreciate this far too sweet and cuddly comedy, there was clearly more potential here. No one can fault James for trying this approach to his future film career, but perhaps he should rethink the entire media transition.
To the polo fields!
Run time: 91 mins
In Theaters: Friday 16th January 2009
Box Office USA: $146.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $122.5M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures, Happy Madison Productions, Relativity Media
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 37 Rotten: 76
IMDB: 5.2 / 10
Director: Steve Carr
Starring: 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 Cmdr. James Kent, Adam Ferrara as Sergeant Howard, Jamal Mixon as Leon, Adhir Kalyan as Pahud, Erick Avari as Vijay, Gary Valentine as Karaoke Singer, Allen Covert as Jerky Security Guy, Mike Vallely as Rudolph, Mike Escamilla as Blitzen, Jason Ellis as Prancer, Jason Packham as Comet, Rick Thorne as Cupid, Victor T. Lopez as Donner, Natascha Hopkins as Vixen, Jackie Sandler as Victoria's Secret Sales Associate, Mookie Barker as Mr. Ferguson, Jackie Flynn as Officer, Richie Minervini as Bank Manager, Brie Hill Arbaugh as Bank Teller
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