Paul Blart: Mall Cop (review)

Die Fat

Oh my goodness, it’s a ripoff of Die Hard. A shameless ripoff that gets more and more shameless the longer it goes on, and it crams a lot of shameless into 90 minutes. Actually, into only 60 minutes, because it’s not till around the 30-minute mark that we learn that this is to be a shameless ripoff of Die Hard.
No, up till then, it’s been merely yet another whiny but-I’m-a-nice-guy, why-don’t-women-like-nice-guys excuse for a romantic comedy. We’ve met Paul Blart (Kevin James: I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, The King of Queens), who would like to be a state trooper but can’t pass the physical exam because of his hypoglycemia, which makes him faint and fall into a deep, snorey sleep without warning (which seems like a very good reason to keep someone off the police force, frankly). So he works at a New Jersey mall, security-guarding the ball tank and the food court and insulting unattractive female shoppers. That’s fine, because, as Paul Blart: Mall Cop knows, our society is totally onboard with determining that overweight and less-than-Barbie-doll-pretty women are acceptable fodder for insecure idiots to take a swipe at while overweight, less-than-movie-star-gorgeous men are entitled to be treated with respect, and for even totally hot women way out of their league to “give them a chance.”

Like Amy (Jayma Mays), the very cute girl with ridiculously huge eyes who works at the hair-extension kiosk. Paul decides from afar, before he’s even met her, that she’s the girl for him. And that’s completely awesome and natural and normal, of course, because even big sweaty dumb fat guys like Paul — whom the very movie itself debases for being big, sweaty, dumb, and fat — deserve to be given every benefit of the doubt by even pretty girls who could have their pick of suitors. As Paul’s daughter, Maya (Raini Rodriguez), who looks about 12, consoles him, as soon as Amy gives him a chance, she’ll be hooked. (Maya’s mother has abandoned Paul and their daughter, because, it would seem, fat ugly women cannot be trusted. But at least that leaves Paul free to pursue sweet, nice, adorable Amy.)

The movie is not so gracious to the large woman Paul verbally assaulted earlier, but who cares? Time to move on to the ripping off of Die Hard!

Thirty minutes into Mall Cop, just when we’ve been convinced that this will be simply the endless inevitable overload of brand names that comes from shooting in an actual mall and a desperately unfunny conglomeration of fat jokes, fat jokes, more fat jokes, and 80s power ballads, a troupe of the world’s dumbest — but most physically nimble — villains ever launch the most poorly thought out mall heist ever. Fortunately, the screenwriters — James and Nick Bakay — completely ignore the serious flaws inherent in the bad guys’ plan and move on to the theft of every major plot point from Die Hard, from the anticipation of the cops’ reactions to the discovery of a loved one of their nemesis’s among their hostages.

Their nemesis? It’s Blart, of course. (I’m not sure which is worse: that James and Bakay did not realize that the surname of their putative hero is British slang for an intimate area of female anatomy, or that they did.) He alone — because of his idiotic incompetence — is left to roam free in the mall as the bad guys take over. (They’ve shooed the shoppers out. All of them? On Black Friday? Well, that’s one of the potential hangups the movies pretends doesn’t exist.)

Like most pathetic excuses for comedies these days, the screenwriters and director Steve Carr — perpetrator of such atrocities as Are We Done Yet? and Daddy Day Care — want to have it both ways. They want to expose Blart to ever increasing levels of humiliation that we’re meant to laugh at while also asking us to care about him. They want us to accept Blart as someone better than the low-level job he does — they go to great pains to show us that Blart is more conscientious about his work than his bosses and coworkers, though they don’t seem to be quite certain whether conscientiousness is something to be made fun of or not — but they also want us to accept that in the middle of a hostage situation in which people he cares about are at stake, he would stop to shop for a birthday card.

But really, the worse of it is that their plot — and some of the dialogue — is lifted wholesale from a classic movie that its entire intended audience will be familiar with. Do they think we’re stupid?

Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a Happy Madison production, which is Adam Sandler’s company, so you should know what you’re in for. Grading on the Adam Sandler curve is, if you want to be kind about it, kinda like how everyone cheers at the Special Olympics. I don’t want to be kind about it. The athletes at the Special Olympics are doing the best they can. These Paul Blart guys are doing the bare minimum they think they can get away with without getting lynched by the audience, and we should not be applauding them for it. Maybe lynching would be extreme, but how about tarring-and-feathering?

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