So, the very first film to examine/study/review is Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and let’s just say, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this one. Released in cinemas in 2009, I have memories of watching the trailer and making a mental note to avoid this film. In all honesty, I am not a fan of Kevin James’s acting and comedy style, having watched a few episodes of The King of Queens, a sitcom about a UPS delivery man, so I was going in with some bias. So much so, that as I selected this film on Netflix to watch, I groaned. I really wasn’t looking forward to this. That being said, lets take a look at it.
So, the plot goes like this – An overweight, hypoglycemic guy with a mustache, our eponymous hero Paul Blart, played by Kevin James, is unable to pass the fitness test for the New Jersey Police, and so settles for a job as a Mall Cop. His wife has divorced him, as she only married him for a green card, and he is unhappy with his lot in life. A new kiosk has opened in the mall, and he is attracted to the lady who runs it. However, there is an attempt to rob the mall by a gang of hoodlums, they take love interest hostage, and as the only person left in the mall, Paul Blart has to save the day. Long story short, he rescues the hostages, captures the crooks, and gets his love interest, Big whoop. And if anyone is shouting “SPOILERS” at this second, if you weren’t able to deduce that Paul Blart was going to save the day, then congratulations, you are the naive movie go-er every film studio dreams of!
Overall, its not the worst outline for a film ever. The problem is though that everything is so ham-fisted, its all been done before (and better), and the humour is so base. I mean, I enjoy a good dick and fart joke as much as the next man, hell, I enjoy Jackass, but the problem is, the “jokes” leave you feeling cold. During the opening scene where Paul Blart is doing the New Jersey Police Fitness Test, he gets sweat stains on his man boobs, and then passes out inches from the finish line due to his hypoglycemia, starts to snore, and everyone just stands around as if nothing happened.
If someone collapsed on the street, at least some people would go over and help. Not in Paul’s case! People are just stepping over him so they can finish. There is mean to be some slapstick/schadenfreude element, but its just a fat man falling down. Its not inherently funny, it just comes across as mean. The film just glosses over this medical issue with a glib smile, and moves onto the next joke. The problem is, that the next joke is actually just the same joke, over and over. I just can’t find a man repeatedly passing out due to his medical condition and over-exertion very amusing. Even in a comedy film it just seems cruel. Again, I reiterate I like watching Jackass, but whereas Johnny Knoxville and the gang choose to do stupid painful stunts for our amusement, this just belittles the ill.
Another example is where he is called to a lingerie department to break up a fight between two women, one overweight and one rather skinny. I’m no expert, but I don’t think these two women would be really fighting over the same piece of lingerie, but by all means correct me if I’m wrong. Anyhoo, Paul Blart calls the overweight lady fat, and a fight ensues. The real problem here is that you are so apathetic about this character Paul, that you are actually rooting for the woman to kick his arse. Maybe then he’ll seek professional help to get over his medical conditions and his wife leaving him. Probably not though, it is a film after all.
The other problem with this film is that jokes are telegraphed from a mile away. I can appreciate a good build up, but when something it screaming for you to pay attention on screen, it isn’t a build up anymore. An example of this is with the introduction of Amy. The very instance you meet Paul Blart’s love interest Amy, played by Jayma Mays (who is also the love interest in Glee, who is also the love interest in How I Met Your Mother, and I can now only assume is now typecast as the love interest in all TV shows and movies), you can tell she is wearing a wig. You then see her a few minutes later wearing a different wig. Why? So she can do a slo-mo hair flick when taking of the wig to an 80s power ballad, which seems to be the only music they use in the bloody film.
The film at times feels more like a hyperactive child trying to get your attention, going “Here, here! You should be laughing at this bit!” throughout, such as during the uncomfortable scene of Paul Blart and his fat friend having a nacho eating competition, or during the uncomfortable scene with Adhir Kalyan being a creepy teenage sex pest, or whenever Paul Blart is on a segway (which is a large portion of the film), or when he is playing Rock Band in an arcade. The list can just go on.
The characters are so flat, that you never really connect with them. The bad guy is so bland, its hard to hate him. Ultimately, the only reason I didn’t root for him was the fact he hired such inept henchmen, and he himself was just as inept. Plus what is with the “hoodlums” who are robbing the store being on skateboards, and BMXs, and free running? Time is on their side, they could just walk the mall and rob everything, they don’t need vehicles. It just seems like it is trying to crowbar something interesting in for the kids to look at and identify.
The last few things are really just annoyances more than anything, things that you see a lot of people getting wrong. Why does Paul Blart have a CRT monitor at home? I haven’t seen a CRT monitor in an office, library or computer shop for about the last 8 years. Is he just clinging onto this thing for dear life, or is more likely that the props team felt that people are still unable to identify a flatscreen monitor as part of a computer. Another gripe with this film is that it tries to tell you your emotions through music throughout, and it isn’t subtle. One minute it is silence, and then something happens and its CUE DRAMATIC MUSIC/80s POWER BALLAD. And those are the only two options.
Okay, so from all of this I think you can gather that I don’t like this film. But then, it is meant to be a family-friendly comedy, so I’m not its target audience, so no wonder I don’t like it. However, it feels just like every other “family friendly” comedy, a vanity project. Like Kevin James needed to write something that his kids could watch. The plot seemed tired, and a rehash of better films, but in a comedy style. There was clearly a lot of money thrown at this project as it looked nice, but that is to be expected when your friend Adam Sandler provides the money to produce the film. The actors didn’t do too badly either considering what they were given to work with.
So the final result: 4.5/10 Felt churned out, and could have done better.
But wait, there is some more good news, it seems that Paul Blart 2 is currently in production! Maybe this time Kevin James will write actually write something good. Oh, and I have to thank my good friend Dave Wells for this choice. Were it not for him, I might have been able to continue on in blissful ignorance of this film, so yeah, thanks a bunch.