Paul Blart: Mall Cop
The World’s Only Tribute to Mall Security
Starring: Kevin James, Jayma Mays
By Tom Bevis
Raise your hand if you think Paul Blart: Mall Cop looks like the stupidest movie ever made. Yeah, my hand’s up too. And it’s not surprising at all. The trailers made the film out to be a senseless extravaganza of slapstick: fat jokes and physical violence abound. It doesn’t help that the director, Steve Carr, has made a name for himself (or hasn’t, your choice) directing bad comedies, building a resume that includes Are We Done Yet, Daddy Day Care, and Dr. Dolittle 2. What we didn’t count on is the rather in-depth examination of action films that Mall Cop turns out to be.
Kevin James is a struggling comedian who plays a struggling mall security guard in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Paul Blart is a man who has been repeatedly rejected from the New Jersey State Police, suffers from hypoglycemia, and appears to be immaculately skilled at unwittingly flirting with the most attractive of mall-goers. After a short stint of romance and a rather embarrassing bar party, Paul Blart is tossed into action as the mall is taken over by a troupe of back-flipping conmen.
As is true with any comedy, there is some questionable script-writing involved with Mall Cop. In a few of the film’s less becoming scenes, Kevin James actually shouts out “Hey you! Scooby dooby doo!” Yeah, just awful. Even worse is when one of the bad guys chases after James with a rifle and proclaims, “It’s time for some big game hunting!” These guys deserve to be slapped. It also seems that scriptwriter Nick Bakay fails to do his research: even after the mall is “secured” by SWAT, all but the front entrances are left unguarded, allowing second parties to come and go as they please, which allow for most of the film’s conflict.
In other scenes, the scriptwriting just slips into the incredulous, which – however unbelievable it can be – actually serves the film, such as a scene in which James jumps a gap on the mall’s roofing in his trademark segway, or when SWAT teams up with mall security to apprehend the criminals at long last. The film also shows us that mall security guards are the toughest of all law enforcement officers, able to best not only state police but SWAT as well, and that Rock Band is the root of all our problems, problems which can be taunted into submission by dancing robots (think I’m joking? See the movie).
The film has everything we expect from a good action film: fight scenes, a car chase, and explosions. What separates Mall Cop from other Hollywood action flicks is nothing is done in excess. Filmmakers tend to throw in half-hour long chase scenes, epic bouts of combat, and a plethora of explosions, hoping it will some how mesh into a cinematic marvel of balance and propriety. Usually, though, they fail miserably and overkill each and every tool at their disposal. Keeping this in mind, cinematic magic happens when the film juxtaposes the big ambitions of the mall cop with the arrogance of the SWAT leader to build an accidentally sophisticated parody of the action genre.
The worst part of the film is easily its team of villains. The group is a sort of extreme sport show team that relies on hip theatrics for their appeal and sense of infamy: BMX! SKATEBOARDS! PARCOUR! This is starting to sound a little bit like Punisher: War Zone. They run around, back-flip off overhangs and jump off holiday displays and don’t seem to take themselves seriously at all. The audience, in turn, is simply unable to take them seriously, and they never seem to invoke any sense of peril or fear. They just look like a bunch of kids skateboarding in a mall. Even worse is their leader, played by Keir O’Donnell (you may remember him as Todd, the weird brother, from Wedding Crashers), who blurts out his lines in unconvincing blurts at every turn. When he’s supposed to seem sly, he comes off arrogant. When he’s supposed to seem angry, he comes off arrogant. When he’s supposed to seem worried, he comes off arrogant. And the one
time we rely on him to do what he does best, and act arrogant, he comes off seeming doubtful.
There are critics and film viewers abound that are simply prejudiced against modern comedies. I can’t blame them, often times I can spot myself doing the same thing, and with an onslaught of movies like Meet the Spartans or Superhero Movie, it isn’t surprising. Those films beat the parody genre into a painful submission where simply no one’s laughing, and the audience is trained to simply avoid parody films altogether. After watching the trailer for Mall Cop, laced with slapstick and low-brow jaunts, many viewers are going to be inclined to believe that this is simply one of those bad parody pictures. Well, it’s not, and I think one would be wise to pause here and consider what makes a good comedy. Widely considered to be the best comedies ever made, Young Frankenstein and Airplane are both parodies. Both of them lapse uncontrollably into slapstick and low-brow humor, and both of them are surprisingly dated. These are all traits they share with Mall Cop.