In Columbia Pictures' comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Kevin James stars as the title character, a single, suburban dad, trying to make ends meet as a security officer at a New Jersey mall. Though no one else takes his job seriously, Paul considers himself on the front lines of safety. When a heist shuts down the megaplex, Jersey's most formidable mall cop will have to become a real cop to save the day. (from MovieWeb.com)
As I've said before in previous reviews, you can't expect much from films released in January because it is oftentimes the month movie studios will dump the films they have little to no hope in succeeding. So when Kevin James' first lead role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop dropped on January 16, it wasn't a very good sign.
Still, there can be a lot of fun to be found in semi-mediocre comedies that at least still deliver the laughs. Last year's bizarre Eddie Murphy comedy Meet Dave (which we caught on rental) was a good example of that, and Mall Cop is really only slightly a step up. James' charm and underdog persona help make Mall Cop as enjoyable as it is. It's a silly film that relies heavily on fat jokes and slapstick comedy, which brings to mind the screwball comedy format of yesteryear with acts like Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello. While films like Mall Cop aren't the kind you'd write home about, so to speak, or expect to win any awards (except maybe Razzies), they're the kind of films you see just to laugh at, and that's the entire point to their existence in the first place.
With that said, Kevin James is a lot of fun as the title character, Paul Blart - a devoted single father (whose Mexican wife abandoned him, having only used him for a green card) and committed mall security guard in New Jersey. Mall Cop is especially geared towards fans of James' shtick and those who enjoyed in in his show King Of Queens or the film Hitch will most likely enjoy what he has to offer here. Blart takes his job way too seriously and just about everyone around him likes to rub his failures in his face. Blart's vulnerability makes him a hero you want to root for - when his mall inevitably is siezed by a group of thieves - and jokes quickly follow the moments when the film begins to take itself more seriously than it may need to.
Content is relatively light, given it's rated PG, but there is still some mild profanity sprinkled throughout, and some occasional borderline crude humor (like when Paul borrows his Arab friend's daughter's cell phone, and keeps getting random calls from a teen Indian boy who is obsessed with the girl and who we see in just his boxers a few times). With how lighthearted and enjoyable the film can be, it's unfortunate that Mall Cop still includes some of the content it does, but it's nice to see Hollywood taking more steps towards more family-friendly films like this one (although it's certainly not perfect). In one sequence, Blart gets completely drunk but acts like a jerk, and we later find out he got tattoos done while he was intoxicated. The whole thing is played for laughs, but it never makes drinking to excess seem all that appealing.
Aside from James, most of the cast of Mall Cop are unknowns or small names. The most recognizable may be Jayma Mays as Amy, a new shop owner in the mall who Blart has a crush on. Mays previously has appeared in films like Red Eye and Flags of Our Fathers and TV shows like Heroes and Ugly Betty. Mays is delightful as Amy, even if she seems like a strange match for Blart. The other characters, which include a surprise villain, aid to the B-movie feel of Mall Cop, but don't detract from its enjoyability.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a surprisingly cute and sweet comedy film that takes strides towards more family friendly fare, but still remains just rough enough around the edges to warrant a closer look at content for some parents. Hopefully James and company make more family-oriented entertainment. In the meantime, Paul Blart is happy to be at your service.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 2/21/09)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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