Screenwriters: Kevin James, Nick Bakay
Starring: Kevin James, Keir O'Donnell, Jayma Mays, Raini Rodriguez
Running Time: 91 mins
For a very long time, Paul Blart: Mall Cop walks a similar line to the recent batch of repellent American comedies whose ranks have included Four Christmases and New In Town. Similarly, Kevin James's latest movie is painfully obvious, littered with broad characterisations and poorly composed, mirthless slapstick. However, it does - very much out of nowhere - briefly up its game from unbearable to mildly entertaining during the course of its 91 minutes.
After playing second fiddle to Will Smith and Adam Sandler in his two big movie roles, James gets a poster all to himself with Mall Cop, which he co-wrote alongside another King Of Queens veteran Nick Bakay. Here he's cast as a dopey mall security guard in emotional stasis. A single father who lives at home with his mother and daughter (his wife left him after getting a green card), his hypoglycemia halts his dreams of a career in law enforcement and he has to make do with patrolling the local Jersey shopping complex on a Segue. When a gang of criminals overrun the mall, he is the last man left who can save a group of hostages that include his daughter (Rodriguez) and the girl of his dreams (Mays).
The thrust of Mall Cop's dire introductory act is to set up a string of tedious fat jokes. Blart ploughs into the back of a display 4x4 truck, is dragged across the floor as he tries to arrest an OAP in a disabled buggy, and is socked in the face by an irate (and equally rotund) female shopper. If US comedies have taught us anything, it's that fat people are oh so hilarious! It isn't until director Carr ditches the lazy tumble and fall comedy to enter the action genre that the movie becomes watchable. The final 30 minutes play out as Die Hard with Nakatomi Plaza substituted for a sprawling mall and an overweight man child stepping into John McClane's shoes to take down free-running baddies. There's even a cavalry of indecisive SWAT and police stationed around the building pinning their hopes on the man on the inside.
James is the genre swap's saving grace as he throws himself into a series of improbable set pieces (all him and no stunt man apparently). His commitment to the zero to hero arc is impressive and the movie's funniest moments come from this - notably Rasheeda's 'My Bubble Gum' ring tone constantly sabotaging his rescue mission and his stunned amazement at temporarily neutralising the chief villain with hot sauce.
Save for its dalliance with the everyman action movie, there's no surprises in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, another largely listless comedy from Sandler's Happy Madison production company. James has Homer Simpson charm in the lead, but should stay clear of the typewriter if every star vehicle he pens for himself is as riddled with idiotic pratfalls and nauseating feel-goodery.
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