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Published: Friday, 1/16/2009

Movie review: Paul Blart: Mall Cop *1/2

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Paul Blart: Mall Cop is certainly a spoof of action-adventure films like Diehard.

But it could also be a satire of action comedies from the 1980s like Armed and Dangerous.

I suppose it really doesn't matter, since in either scenario Paul Blart: Mall Cop isn't remotely funny.

Former The King of Queens lead Kevin James, who starred alongside Adam Sandler in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, has a solo turn, starring as the titular character, a well-intentioned but frequently clumsy mall security guard who takes his job a little too seriously. James also co-produced the film with Sandler, and co-wrote the script with writer-actor Nick Bakay.

The story is simple: Paul Blart is a single father - his Mexican wife married him only to gain green-card status, and then abandoned him and their infant daughter who is now a teenager (Raini Rodriguez). Paul and his daughter live with his mother (Shirley Knight). He's a good soul, and desperately lonely, so his mother and daughter encourage him to meet someone online. Paul resists, but soon falls for a doe-eyed beauty, Amy (Jayma Mays), who sells hair extensions at a mall kiosk.

Paul is smitten the moment he spies Amy, and spends much of the film fumbling opportunities to ask her out, as well as patrolling the mall on his zippy Segway. (There's no doubting the Segway's ability to elicit laughs - see Arrested Development - and Paul Blart: Mall Cop does offer a brief funny moment involving the Segway and an elderly man on a motorized scooter that's worth some chuckles, but how much humor can an overweight man on a Segway generate beyond a minute-long YouTube clip?)

So, Paul awkwardly pursues Amy, and seems to be the only mall security officer who takes his job seriously. Then the opportunity for Paul to prove himself a hero presents itself after a band of high-tech, strangely acrobatic crooks takes over the mall in a scheme to steal millions from credit cards. In the process, they take hostages, including Amy. Meanwhile, the cops are foiled when trying to enter the mall, leaving Paul as the only one who can stop the bandits.

I'm sure there's rich ground to mine for humor in being a security guard at a mall, but this film mostly comes up empty.

Who hasn't, at some point in his life, found humor at the expense of a mall security officer; the cliche of a cop wannabe who has no real authority over anyone other than to call a real police officer for assistance? (And before you write in with your complaints, my brother is head of security for a mall in Dallas.)

Whether the mall officers are being derided as Johnny Security, or even worse as simply a rent-a-cop, theirs is a thankless job that offers few if any tangible benefits - they can't carry a gun, and can only enforce the law through a citizen's arrest. Paul Blart: Mall Cop spends much of its 90-minute running time pointing this out; I just did it in one paragraph and saved you some money in the process.

While the previews for Paul Blart: Mall Cop did little to entice me to see the film, or convince me it might be more than a one-joke affair, the movie's first few minutes were funny and, I thought, were a hopeful sign that I'd misjudged the movie.

That hope quickly vanished thanks to a predictable pattern of cliches and jokes that did little to elicit laughs.

Turns out I was wrong about being wrong.

Contact Kirk Baird at

kbaird@theblade.com

or 419-724-6734.

1.5 stars



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