Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Release Date: January 16, 2009

Movie of the Day for Monday, November 10, 2008
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Aaaaaah! No.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
37/38 John Seal Good character, good set-up, dreadful screenplay and poor delivery
80/82 Kelly Metz What on earth was the point of this movie? If you're over the age of 10, skip it.
164/169 Max Braden It took me an hour of painful watching to realize this was an homage to Die Hard. They should have gone even more silly to make that point.

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Comedy is a subjective thing. What may be hysterical to me might be offensive to you. What might be ridiculously funny to your significant other or your parents might be deadly boring to someone else. Benny Hill was hysterical 40 years ago, now he’s yawned at. Eddie Murphy was one of the funniest people on the planet not too long ago. Now everyone is laughing at him for all the wrong reasons.

There’s satirical comedy, juvenile comedy, edgy comedy, comedy based on caricature, observational humor, straight up improvisational humor, stand up comedy, character based comedy, sketch humor, slapstick comedy and comedy that is not funny at all. (See Cook, Dane.)

Then there’s Kevin James. He’s not the best known comedian in the world, but he has been successful. Kevin starred in and produced nine seasons of King of Queens, an everyman comedy that was quite successful in the long run. He’s also starred in some fairly major films, with mixed success. Hitch was pretty much a hit, but his role was very minor in that film. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry was his biggest role to date. While critics reviled that film, it did do an astounding $183 million worldwide against an $85 million dollar budget. Still, he was backed up in that film by Adam Sandler, a pretty well known, if somewhat uneven, comedic presence.

Paul Blart, Mall Cop represents James’s first real starring role in a comedy feature film. And by starring, I mean STARRING. He has next to no star power backing him up at all in this role, with the nearest name actor in the film being Keir O’Donnel, whose last real role of note (In box office terms anyway…) was in Wedding Crashers, where he played the… uh… interesting Todd Cleary.

This might actually be a good thing for James. His work on King of Queens was uniformly very good and quite funny, and in the role of Doug Heffernan he consistently played a likable, sympathetic and funny everyman. In this role, with him being the focus, it may just be perfect for him. James excels at making himself the butt of the jokes and making fun of everyday situations. He’s a gentle comedian with a body of work that is inoffensive and likable, if not exactly edgy.

I’ve seen the trailer for this one several times, and in it James plays the titular Paul Blart. Paul wants desperately to be a police officer, but he keeps failing the physical, so he continues to work as a security guard at a local mall. Precipitously, the mall is targeted by an elite group of criminals for a high tech robbery, and Blart doesn’t so much as disrupt their plans as he falls into the middle of things and flails around demolishing timetables, expensive equipment and highly trained criminal specialists.

The trailer does look good, but I’m concerned that James might be forcing it a little. One scene shows him running the police obstacle course and falling over asleep in the middle of the course. It’s moderately funny, but it feels a little forced. What’s better is later on as the criminals break into the mall and Blart hangs in there to do what he can against an opponent that’s highly trained, better armed, completely lethal and trying to kill him in as painful a manner as possible. Watching Blart try to move stealthily around the mall is pretty funny, as is a sequence where he nearly breaks down crying as he talks to the police force outside on the radio.

I don’t know if this is going to be James’s Beverly Hills Cop, but this has potential to blow up. Sources are pegging this one at a $25 million total, but with a boring looking January coming up with little to compete with it save football, this might go bigger than that. I’m personally staking this to finish in the $50 to $60 million range, possibly more if James does what he does best, act funny while making fun of only himself. (Scott Lumley/BOP)

Vital statistics for Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Main Cast Kevin James, Jayma Mays, Shirley Knight
Supporting Cast Raini Rodriguez, Stephen Rannazzisi, Adam Ferrara
Director Steve Carr
Screenwriter Kevin James, Nick Bakay, Steve Pink
Distributor Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Screen Count 3,144
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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