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Making Rent-a-cop Headlines

Movie title: Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)
Grade: B+ (3 1/2 stars) Recommended!
Rated:
PG
Summation: A lonely mall security guard runs into romance and action when thieves invade his mall.
Spoilers ahead: No

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Appealing to middle-aged pie-lovers everywhere is Kevin James as Paul Blart, shiftless, overweight, hypoglycemic, wannabe cop/mall security guard. They could have chosen a better last name for the character, but that may have been an intentional comically immature reference to “blubber” and “fart” (two things that could be said to define James’ antics). That would have been a very Kevin James-ish thing to have, I’m thinking.

Kevin James, like the great Chris Farley (may he rest in peace), has the iconic ability to be awkwardly funny with heart-stopping hilarity. His penguin-like appearance on screen alone is a kneeslapper. His slapstick style isn’t just funny, but believable rather than corny. If you can handle James’ King of Queens-style self-put-down routines, then you should relate well to the character of Paul Blart. I’m no devoted Kevin James fan, but I liked the character he played.

All Blart has is his job, and he does it well out of not having much else of a life. He’s not a smooth operator, not a savvy socializer, and he’s clumsy enough to crush in the back of a minivan on his out-of-control scooter. He often shares too much and thinks he’s funny when others are downright embarrassed by him. He loves his daughter and his mom, who always see to it that he gets the food to eat that he can’t get out of his head.

Like many security guards, he wants to be a cop, but has some physical hang-ups. He’s disappointed by all of that, but his biggest disappointment is his loneliness. He wants someone to love. That’s Paul Blart, a nicely mapped-out character that makes everyone feel a lot more successful by comparison. That’s what’s to love about him.

I liked the movie. I liked the cast. Everyone looked real and fit their parts. Some wishy-washy slapstick aside and enough awkward social exchanges towards the beginning that make you want to run and hide under a table, this was damn funny. And sometimes, predictability isn’t so bad. It had a lovable plot and some light drama.

Blart meets a girl at the mall, and as with most things in his cellphone-abhoring, cassette tape-playing life, he’s not on the winning path. But while he may have the social skills of a ninth-grader in resource class, he can step up to the plate and be more than he is.

When there’s a crisis brewing at the mall, when something’s going down, there’s a man for the job. Better call Jack Bauer..or Paul Blart? Both can take care of business, but only one is available. Choose well!

At times, I almost felt camaraderie with Blart. Both of us have worked security, both of us have go-nowhere lives, and neither I, nor Officer Blart look good in a mustache! But tell me, who can’t relate to a life of failure and a guy who buries his sorrows in pies? I liked the character of the villains too. To me, it was a most welcomed parody of Diehard.

Never mind that Amy (Jayma Mays), his love interest, is hotter than he should aim for or expect to get. Never mind the one-sided-ness of Veck Sims (Keir O'Donnell), the head villain, and the shallow-thinking crooks under his command, or the presence of rollerblading mall invaders. And never mind a story that doesn’t justify a fat guy knocking the bad guys out with the air duct he’s hiding in, or making his way stealthfully around a mall and using the merchandise to kick butt. It’s a comedy, and you watch lightheartedly, for the laughs.

If there is one thing I am disappointed with, it’s the critics and their uncalled-for trashing of the film. I’m tired of fake movie critics panning the film just because they’ve heard others pan it. Go and see it! This is good, funny, family-worthy entertainment, and those who don’t like it probably just don’t like Kevin James, which is fine. They just shouldn’t ruin it for the rest of us.

(JH)

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Director: Steve Carr
Starring: Kevin James “Paul Blart,” Keir O'Donnell “Veck Sims,” Jayma Mays “Amy,” Raini Rodriguez “Maya Blart,” Shirley Knight “Mom,” Stephen Rannazzisi “Stuart,” Peter Gerety “Chief Brooks,” Bobby Cannavale “Commander Kent,” Adam Ferrara “Sergeant Howard,” Jamal Mixon “Leon,” Adhir Kalyan “Pahud,” Erick Avari “Vijay”
Genre: Comedy

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