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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Posted on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Director: Steve Carr
Screenwriter: Steve Carr
Cast: Kevin James, Keir O'Donnell, Raini Rodriguez, Adhir Kalyan, Jayma Mays
Release Date: 2009-01-21
Rated: PG
Genre: Film

Ultra-low expectations are crucial to even mildly enjoying this movie, so here’s some extra fuel for the Blart-hate bandwagon. Mall Cop not only stars bumbling sad sack Kevin James (King of Queens), it was co-written by him and released by Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company. Last time Sandler and James collaborated, you’ll recall, it was for I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, a fake-gay-marriage flick so critically despised that I’m going to go ahead and blame it for the passage of Proposition 8. Worse, Mall Cop is directed by Steve Carr, whose previous films include Daddy Day Care, Are We Done Yet?, and Rebound. (Jeez, Steve, what’d we ever do to you?) And, as a final squirt of rancid mayonnaise on the shit sandwich, the film is inexplicably set at holiday time, Black Friday to be exact, and was presumably held till now to avoid direct competition with the likes of Four Christmases. The credits alone make Mall Cop a single Rob Schneider cameo away from being prosecuted as an actual hate crime.

So going into the theater you know this will suck, and that’s Paul Blart’s single ace in the hole. James as a rent-a-cop attempting full-on John Candy pathetic-ness (complete with Planes, Trains and Automobiles mustache) makes for such a pitiable character that ridiculing the film feels like emceeing a Comedy Central roast for a Make-a-Wish kid.

Fact is, the one-note gag — James is a clumsy, hypoglycemic police-academy reject with sweaty tits and a Segway — is so painfully unfunny, you start to feel bad for the dude. By the time the plot hits Die Hard mode, you’re rooting for Blart to take down the bad guys not because he’s likable, but because you’ve seen him guilt his mom into making sloppy joes and cry over his ignored online dating profile. You even want the romantic subplot to work out, even if his pursuit of Anna Faris stand-in Mays is ridiculous to a James-Belushi-banging-Courtney-Thorne-Smith extent.

But repeatedly playing the guilt card is no way to run a comedy, so Mall Cop can only be recommended for a night out with your sitcom-watching parents. You’ll definitely feel superior to it, but don’t be surprised when that makes you feel like kind of an asshole.

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