January 28, 2009

Movie Review: Paul Blart - Mall Cop

mallcop1_largePaul Blart: Mall Cop is an easy comedy to ignore. It is one of those early year releases that seems destined to be a mere place holder during the cold early weeks of the year that is released in the hopes of making a few bucks in the wake of expanding Oscar hopefuls. Yes, it is true the early releases of any given new year are not among those expected to be competing come the end of year awards show. Fortunately the world of the movies is always ready to offer up a surprise or two, and this Happy Madison (Adam Sandler's company) production is a very pleasant surprise. Well, I know it caught me off-guard.

Kevin James stars as the titular Paul Blart, a sad, lonely, hypoglycemic would-be New Jersey State Trooper who is never able to make it to the finish line and achieve his chosen goal. So, while he sadly sits with his mother and daughter (he is a single father) slathering his pie with peanut butter he focuses on his second love, being a mall cop. Blart takes this job very seriously, complete with a routine to get himself ready before hitting the food court. Despite his weight issues, and problematic social skills, Paul Blart loves this job and puts his whole heart into it. I guess it does not hurt that he has little else going for him.

mallcop6The movie is about much more than a heavy guy dreaming of being a real cop while playing security guard. It is about a man learning to believe in himself, digging deep inside and finding the confidence to become the person you want to be. Certainly sounds weighty, doesn't it? It may have some modestly deep issues in the background that may encourage some new thought processes, but it is not a deep movie. It is a movie that is more content to induce smiles, chuckles, and a few laughs than it is willing to spark serious discussion about the way to find ones center and a balance to happiness. This is not a bad thing.

There is something decidedly different about Paul Blart: Mall Cop, something that helps it stand out from other light comedies and something that is a refreshing change. What could that thing be? It is something that permeates the entire film, and that is the fact that it is a genuinely nice comedy. It is a movie that is warm and welcoming and has its heart in the right place. Usually films of this ilk rely on innuendo, bodily fluid humor, and very often mean comedy. All of this makes Paul Blart a breath of fresh air. Plus, Kevin James is a very likable on screen persona.

mallcop7The big plot of the film has Blart's mall taken over by a gang intent on stealing the holiday credit receipts from all the big stores in the mall. As the bad guys move in they take a few hostages, including the cute kiosk girl that Paul has his eye on, and holds them in the bank. Unbeknownst to them, Blart was taking a bit of a break in the arcade and is oblivious to the whole thing. Soon enough, Blart discovers that something is not right and must decide whether to get out while he can or defend his mall. His choice is obvious and pretty entertaining.

Along the way there are threads involving Paul and other mall employees as they hang out after work, with Paul doing his best to fit in. There is also the sweet relationship between Paul and his daughter, which plays an important part in the eventual outcome of the showdown.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop is Kevin James' first shot at top billing a wide release film following co-starring roles with Will Smith (Hitch) and Adam Sandler (I Now Pronouce You Chuck and Larry). I found him quite entertaining in both of those films (and one of the only good things about the latter). I have to say that he does a fine job taking his personality to the big screen and proves he can be the lead in a wide release. The character may be broad, but it is an endearing one that connects with an audience and makes you care about his journey. Hopefully this is just the beginning.

Bottomline. Taken together, this is a good hearted film that is not great by any stretch, but it is a highly enjoyable one that is safe for the entire family. I know I had a good time sitting there. Gather the family and head out for a fun time all can enjoy.



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