May 19, 2009 -- I waited to see “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” until it got to the discount theaters because I didn't want to pay full price. It wasn't worth the wait. In many respects this is an embarrassingly bad movie, an unfunny comedy with a limited imagination and a steady diet of fat jokes. The film's star, Kevin James, is a gifted comic actor and has been in much better films before, such as Hitch. He puts a mighty effort into saving this film, but it isn't enough. He is laughing all the way to the bank, though, because this film made about $150 million at the box office and that's what really counts in Hollywood, so he will definitely get more starring comedic roles like this one.
The first half of the film is a standard romantic comedy with the lonely Blart, an overweight, hypoglycemic security guard trying to win the affection of Amy, a pretty sales girl (played by Jayma Mays) who sells wigs in the mall. Those of you who have seen Observe and Report will notice the plots of these two films at this point are nearly identical. Paul Blart even says the words “Observe and Report” during the course of the film. This part of the film is just a set up for the heist during the second half of the film when the mall is taken over by a gang of crooks. That is where the plots of the two films diverge. Amy, along with Blart's daughter, Maya (Raini Rodriguez) are taken hostage by the crooks, who are after credit card codes worth millions. Blart is the only security guard left in the mall and it is up to him to rescue the hostages.
Blart, of course becomes a hero and rescues everyone, but not before a lot of slapstick stunts and a few plot twists. One of the few really funny scenes in the movie has Blart sneaking into the bank to “observe and report” where the hostages are being held. While sneaking in he obediently follows the roped path used to organize customers waiting in line for service. There are precious few other sight gags and pratfalls that are funny in this film. One of the main purposes of this film seems to be to advertise Segways, those motorized, vertical, two-wheeled devices used for personal transport. Blart is extremely adept at moving around the mall with his trusty Segway. His movements are graceful, almost balletic. He is fascinating to watch. He seems to be a very different person on the Segway, confident, graceful and in control.
If you read my review of “Observe and Report” you may have noticed that “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” has everything that seemed to be lacking in “Observe and Report.” It is warm and light, where the other film is dark and heavy. Blart achieves a kind of redemption that Ronnie Barnhardt, the hero of “Observe and Report” never achieves. Barnhardt is dark and threatening, while Blart is warm and fuzzy and non-threatening. In short, this film has everything that seemed to be lacking in “Observe and Report” and yet it remains just as disappointing a film. Critically and economically, the two films had polar opposite results. Blart was a critical flop and a box office success, while “Observe and Report” was a critical success but made only one-sixth as much money as Blart did in ticket sales. I vote for none of the above. I am looking for a much better mall cop character, somebody as good as Barney Fife or Inspector Clouseau. In fact, I once saw a mall cop who looked a lot like Barney Fife, a skinny little guy with a hat too big for his head. He was funnier than either of these mall cop films. This film rates a D.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.