Movie Review - Paul Blart: Mall Cop
By Matthew Huntley
January 27, 2009
When will Hollywood retire its confidence in the bumbling fat man? The makers of Paul Blart: Mall Cop seem to think it's enough the main character is overweight, that his being fat is all it takes for us to laugh at him riding on a Segway, producing sweat stains under his nipples and getting drunk. It isn't.
In actuality, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a shameless excuse for a children's comedy. During the screening, I did my best to tell myself it wasn't made for me, that it was intended for kids who would get a kick out of a fat security guard taking out a band of thieves. It's goofy, mindless slapstick and, yes, kids will probably like it, but I don't think they should and I don't think it should be sold to them. Despite its jolliness, Paul Blart sends some bad messages. On a more practical level, it's simply bad storytelling coupled with unfunny material.
In the movie, Paul (Kevin James) is a security guard at a New Jersey mall and has just failed the final test to becoming a state trooper. During the obstacle course, he was about to cross the finish line when he suddenly collapsed from hypoglycemia. Too bad he didn't have one of his trusted Pixie Stix on hand to refuel his system. To cheer him up, his mom (Shirley Knight) and daughter (Raini Rodriguez) create a profile for him on perfectmatch.com. They hope he'll finally land a girlfriend since his wife was deported for being an illegal alien.
But Paul only has eyes for Amy (Jayma Mays), who runs a wig stand at the mall. He's so smitten by her beauty he accidentally crashes into a mini-van while riding his Segway. Things actually seem promising between them until he gets drunk at an employee get-together and falls out a window.
Luckily, Paul gets a chance to redeem himself on Black Friday, when a group of thieves take over the mall. Their plan is to break into stores and take down the numbers from the credit card machines, although I'm not quite sure what this information will provide them. Will the numbers grant them access to people's credit card accounts? Anyway, Paul vows to stop them and rescue Amy, who's been taken hostage. "I took a sworn oath to protect this mall and all the people in it," he tells his boss, only there never was an oath.
From here on out, as you could probably tell from the trailer, the movie turns into a series of stunts and sight gags as Paul recklessly takes the evildoers out one by one. It sort of becomes a new version of Home Alone with an adult taking out the bad guys instead of a kid.
The major problem with Paul Blart is none of the gags are terribly funny. They're predictable and the energy level is too low. The early scenes drag and hover as we merely observe Paul's behavior. We watch in disgust as he spreads peanut butter on a piece of pie; we listen to his tedious conversation with Amy when he buys a wig; we lower our heads as he attempts to stop an old man driving a motorized shopping cart; and we cringe when he wrestles a large woman in a Victoria's Secret. Surprisingly, none of these scenes have any juice or flow and their timing is off. Director Steve Carr should have cued some music or effects on the soundtrack to liven things up, or perhaps made the editing more zippy. It all felt so dry, which isn't what you expect from an 88-minute kids picture.
Still, unfunny is something I can handle. It was the movie's subliminal messages that made it more disturbing and grotesque. I think kids are going to watch this movie and think it's okay to be overweight and eat hordes of sugar (they may even come up with the excuse it's because of their hypoglycemia). I could also see children watching this movie and bugging their parents for a Segway so they can ride places instead of walk. It's almost as if the movie is promoting laziness. Do mall cops really have Segways? Are they not in good enough shape to walk?
The movie is also shameless with its product placement. There's a blatant shot where a Coke and Dasani machine are placed perfectly in the middle of the frame and the camera holds on them for about two seconds before any action occurs. Then there are all the video games and electronics from Sony, not to mention the battle that takes place in the Rain Forest Cafe. I understand the plot takes place in a mall where mainstream products are sold, but their inclusion seems too deliberate and creates an unwholesome commercial feeling.
I won't waste my energy writing about the movie's plot holes (why does Paul take down all the credit card numbers himself?), but I hope there's enough evidence here to suggest Paul Blart: Mall Cop is neither a movie parents should watch with their kids nor one they should drop the kids off to see by themselves. It will bore parents and pollute kids' minds. Kevin James has been funny before and he's a likable guy, and I'm sure none of the filmmakers felt they were making something this bad, but no matter how innocuous their intentions, they should all be ashamed of themselves.