Not long after a gang of crooks infiltrates the mall in which Paul Blart (Kevin James) works, there’s a quick shot of a crook using a ramp to jump over a children’s ball pit on a bike.
Is it funnier that the crooks are apparently extreme sports enthusiasts? What effect does it have on the plot? Aren’t kids going to think the criminals are cool now? Their pointless methods never help them catch Blart, just run around and do fancy flips.
This sense of randomness permeates everything in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a sloppy and confusingly successful family comedy in which the only positive is the charisma of Kevin James.
As the film starts, we’re introduced to mall security guard Blart, divorced with a daughter. He’s drawn to a women working a kiosk played by Jayma Mays. The film might have worked with the antics of James running into things while trying to woo his potential girlfriend.
However, it takes 40 minutes (of a 90 minute movie) to finally reach the real plot, that of the mall takeover, which of course leaves Blart alone to save the mall and his conveniently kidnapped girlfriend. Even with the bombardment of fat jokes (an eating content? Really?), there might have been some merit to the film as a cheesy romantic comedy.
Kevin James is a master of physical comedy and self-humiliation. Mall Cop’s script gives him plenty of opportunity to show off his talents, particularly as he tries writing a ticket to an old man in a motorized wheelchair. When the man tries to escape, he grabs on despite the senior refusing to stop. He’s dragged along until he realizes it’s a losing battle, stands up, and tries to still make himself look good.
That’s funny. Unfortunately, the rest of the film reaches for almost every laugh. Some have pegged the film as a parody of the original Die Hard, though even that is a stretch. Short of the ventilation escape, few scenes make any attempt to mimic the action classic, and if Hans Gruber ever road around on a skateboard through the office building, Bruce Willis wouldn’t have much of a career.
Director Steve Carr handles a variety of family comedies, most of them poor such as Are We Done Yet? and Dr. Dolittle 2. He keeps the pacing up in Mall Cop, but direction is otherwise pedestrian while the screen is owned by James.
It’s doubtful the young ones will be bored watching James slam into vans, fall down, and inexplicably play Rock Band inside an arcade (?) filled with product placements for a specific Sony game console, but the movie never finds its legs. Maybe the adults would be drawn to the early romance, and the kids entertained by the hair- brained plot to steal credit card numbers in the second half. Either way, no one is leaving completely entertained. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Mall Cop is one step away from being a superb transfer. This AVC encode sports deep blacks, wonderful color, and significant detail on both faces and clothing. Sharpness remains high without breaking stride.
Unfortunately, the contrast is cranked up to 11, washing out every positive aspect this presentation had going for it. Take the scene where James first leaves his home to report to work. The house, the ground, and sky are completely blanketed in white, fading colors and literally mixing James’ face with the background. The mall floor, covered in tiles, becomes a white blob.
The video actually works best when the lights are turned down, such as outside the mall. Here the various police and SWAT team sport wonderful depth and facial detail. Why the entire film fails to reach that level is a disappointment. Mall Cop was filmed digitally, and doesn’t suffer from the usual problems such as noise, but doesn’t look natural either. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
Despite the crowded mall setting, including Black Friday, the surrounds go unused. Ambient chatter is non-existent. Even the action scenes, which feature breaking glass and bodies flying through the sound field, stay firmly planted in the front. Bass lovers have one moment (an explosion) that delivers a mild bump in the low end. Despite being a pedestrian comedy, this is a disappointment. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Audio]
Kevin James and producer Todd Garner deliver your basic commentary, followed by a selection of 11 featurettes, falling just short of 50 minutes. While there’s a lot content in terms of time, most of it is unspectacular and padded with footage from the film. Some of the shots of James running loose on set are admittedly funny though.
Ten deleted scenes were deleted for a reason, especially the first one which goes on for a small eternity. A generic BD-Live splash page and useless CineChat feature round off the special features, unless you consider a trailer special. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]