I really like comedian Kevin James, and I'm guessing that aided to my enjoyment of Paul Blart: Mall Cop immeasurably. There's no other explanation for it. The movie is never hysterically funny. It's not at all subversive or edgy. All it is is pleasant and not mean-spirited, and at its center is a very likable performance by James. Good, harmless comedies have been so increasingly hard to come by recently that sometimes a movie that just does its job like Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a welcome diversion.
James stars as the titular Blart, a lovably plus-sized single dad who takes his job as a mall security guard (or is it officer?) way too seriously. He's got a crush on another mall employee (Jayma Mays), a pretty girl who runs the hair extension kiosk, but can't get up the courage to ask her out. He has no cell phone and his only mode of transportation is one of those Segue personal people movers (like Job used to ride on Arrested Development). He is, in a word, unremarkable. But when a gang of criminals takes over the mall on Black Friday (the busiest shopping day of the year!), it's up to Blart to save the day.
Kevin James: Leading Man
Most of the ads for Paul Blart focused on the Die Hard-in-a-mall aspect of the movie. To tell the truth, that stuff doesn't come in until the movie's already half over. Yes, that's a pretty big flaw -- the movie takes too long to get where it needs to go -- but I still found myself enjoying the movie's first half, in which we get to hang out with James' decent, mustached hero. I think a lot of comedies (including others released under Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production label) would have made Paul Blart small and pathetic. As James plays (and writes) him, though, he's just lonely, a little sad but mostly nice. That's rarer than you would think.
I've always liked Kevin James on The King of Queens, and he was the only good thing about the otherwise forgettable 2005 romantic comedy Hitch. Here, he gets a chance to flex his leading-man muscles (movies are different than TV), and I'm happy to say he's up to the challenge. He's likable and funny, self-deprecating without ever being mean-spirited or hateful (like, say, the films of Rob Schneider). And he's got a Chris Farley-like ability to throw himself into a joke, literally. For a guy his size, James is incredibly graceful and nimble; his unedited leap into a glass door made for one of my favorite physical gags of 2009.
I also like the way that Paul Blart finds ways to subvert action movie cliches in its last act; just when you think Blart's going to have his big heroic moment, the movie pulls the rug from underneath him. That the movie is able to do this and not be about doing only that -- which a lesser, more "clever" comedy would have done -- makes it more worthwhile than a lot of big studio comedies.
In the end, it all comes down to Kevin James. I'm really happy that Paul Blart was such a surprise success (grossing over $130 million, which I can't believe anyone expected), because it means we'll get more movies with James as the lead.
The Wrong Extras
The Paul Blart: Mall Cop DVD makes a mistake in giving more time and space to the high-flying stunts performed by the criminals than it does to star Kevin James He shows up in a few of the bonus features, chiefly a commentary track (occasionally funny and certainly engaging, but not much else) and a short piece called "Thoughts" where he basically does mini stand-up routines. Most of the supplemental material focuses on the impressive acrobatic stunt work and extreme sports kind of stuff -- not exactly what the audience for Paul Blart: Mall Cop is looking for.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Paul Blart is, as you probably already know, the first of two mall-cop movies released in 2009. The second is Jody Hill's vastly underrated Observe and Report, starring Seth Rogen. It is everything that Blart is not: nasty, dark, cruel and subversive. It's also kind of a masterpiece, and while I have to admit that I prefer that film of the two, it takes nothing away from my enjoyment of Paul Blart. There is room, as Billy Wilder would say, for both the sour and the sweet.
- Release Date: May 19, 2009
- Running Time: 91 minutes
- 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio (English)
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio (French)
- English Subtitles
- French Subtitles
DVD Bonus Features
- Deleted Scenes
- Commentary with Kevin James and Producer Todd Garner
- "Kevin James: Not Your Average Mall Cop" Featurette
- "Fun on Set" Featurette
- Featurettes: "Stunts"; "The Mall"; "On Set with Mike 'Rooftop' Escamilla"; "Action Sports Junkies"; "Mall Cop Response"; "Mike V. vs. Mall Cop"; "Free Running vs. Parkour"; "Sugar"
- "Thoughts with Kevin James"