Oh dear, oh dear. 2009 saw the release of two comedies revolving around sad security officers who were desperate for a shot at glory. One of those movies, Observe & Report, was an interesting failure – a darkly comedic riff on Taxi Driver. The other movie, this movie, was just a failure. A comedy with few laughs and a lead character just as unlikeable as the one in Observe & Report, with the big difference being that we’re supposed to really like this guy.
The saddest thing about watching a movie like this is just how frustrating it is because of how much I like Kevin James. He plays the title role here and I think the guy can do the sweet and loveable oaf thing perfectly. He was superb in Hitch, okay in the poor I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry and very enjoyable in his TV work. So why he keeps putting himself in films like this one (a film he actually co-wrote with Nick Bakay) is beyond me.
A very quick breakdown of the plot? Kevin James is Paul Blart, the titular mall cop. He’s pretty useless but, deep down, he’s a sweet and caring guy. And he falls for Amy (Jayma Mays). One disastrous night out with added alcohol later, he’s embarrassed and resigned to the fact that he won’t get to impress Amy. But maybe his chance will come as the mall is taken over by armed robbers and Paul is the only man on the inside able to do anything about it (due to one amusing moment in which he rocks out on an arcade guitar game while the mall is being locked down by the bad guys). And these robbers sometimes use skateboards and bicycles because those things are cool. And that’s about it.
I’d be lying if I said that this movie had no laughs (there’s the aforementioned rocking guitar scene and a great car to car jump near the end of the film) but I’d also be lying if I said that it was full of enjoyable moments. The gags aren’t all that funny, the plot has zero predictability or believability and nothing works as those involved intended it to. Paul Blart isn’t even that likeable a character and his drunken craziness is as irritating as it is cringeworthy. The second half of the movie has a few more laughs and a few better moments for our main character (some phone conversations with a character played by Adhir Kalyan are better than anything relating directly to the comedy-action sequences of the mall robbery itself) but still barely manages to keep just above bottom-of-the-barrel fare.
Kevin James is okay in the lead, hampered by the writing (for which he may well blame himself), Jayma Mays is a nice enough woman for the leading man to aim for and Raini Rodriguez is okay as Blarts daughter but it’s the supporting cast who come out of this better. Kalyan is great in his limited screentime, Keir O’Donnell is great as Veck, Bobby Cannavale is enjoyable as a commander who comes in to try and resolve the situation swiftly and efficiently and Stephen Rannazzisi is amusingly smug.
All involved, including director Steve Carr, have much better material in their filmography than this one. Pick any other movie from that selection over this one. The fact that this took over $100 million at the U.S. box office is sad. Sad indeed.
DIRECTOR: STEVE CARR
STARS: KEVIN JAMES, KEIR O’DONNELL, JAYMA MAYS, RAINI RODRIGUEZ, STEPHEN RANNAZZISI, BOBBY CANNAVALE, ADHIR KALYAN
RUNTIME: 91 MINS APPROX