"What'd you boys see last night?" the wife asks.
"Uh...Paul Blart: Mall Cop..."
"Paul Blart: Mall Cop"
"...a movie about, I presume, a mall-cop?"
"What exactly does a "mall-cop" do?"
"Well, he's a security guard for a shopping mall, settles disputes among customers, checks parking, he has no gun, and no real authority, but he keeps the peace...in the mall."
"O-kay (pause) You guys went to see this?"
"Well, Steve was in town, so...it was either that, two horror movies, "Slumdog Millionaire" again or "Notorious."
"...It was sold out."
"Same as for Slumdog Millionaire"
(pause-shakes head ruefully) "...Maybe I should go back to Bali."*
But wait...there's more. "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" was the #1 movie at the box-office this weekend, taking in a staggering $38 million. That's at least six times what it looks like it cost. The story of a morbidly obese mall guard (Kevin James, "The King of Queens") who takes his job very seriously skutting through the crowded mall on his Segway, attempting to keep whatever peace a mall has, has quite a few laughs, quite a lot of product placement, and quite a bit to pump up the kids.
After a not-bad first half that introduces the sad-sack—living with Mom (Shirley Knight!) abandoned by his green-card seeking wife with a child, hypoglycemic, and never quite making the cut for the New Jersey Police Department—the movie turns a bit prosaic with a mall-heist on Black Friday,** becoming "Die Hard in a Mall" (as James describes it in the "First Look" feature before the film—amazingly it didn't give away the best jokes and only the prat-falls).
The heisters are a mix of attractive and unattractive young people with inexplicable parkour skills, who have special ways with bicycles and skate-boards and do all the things kids have wanted to do in a mall with all those escalators, ramps, hanging decorations, elevators, and back-corridors.*** James is left alone in the mall, determined to take them down single-handed and rescue the hostages while a SWAT team waits, growling outside. His character attempting stealth tactics are some of the funniest parts of the movie. James has a grace that is particularly enjoyable to watch, and his moves on the Segway approach the balletic.
But let's not get too sentimental here: this is a paint-by-numbers effort designed to attract the masses with the least offense (supposedly--why are the criminals the most competent of the characters?) and as much "warmth" as one can shove into a movie. The biggest thing that distinguishes "PB:MC" is it's one of the few comedies of the past couple of decades that hasn't tossed out perfunctory fart and poop jokes for easy laughs (and this, coming from Adam Sandler's production company). The comedy comes from character which is a nice change. But the film ticks off formula-point after formula-point. There's the "cute girl" at the mall that Blart is attracted to—a Keane-eyed ingenue (Jayma Mays) working at the hair extensions kiosk—so, of course, there must be a rival for her affections who's a jack-ass in the form of a full-of-himself pen salesman (Stephen Rannazzisi). There's the scenes where Blart embarrasses himself in front of her, but....and you can probably fill in the rest of the movie.
Inoffensive, sporadically funny, and not taxing, that's this one.
"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" is a cable-watcher.
*K. has just returned from a month-long trip to the isle of Bali, where there are lots of Hindu temples, 100° sweltering heat, no malls...amd no mall-cops. She is re-adjusting to Western "civilization." Things like this don't help.
** The mall-robbery is presumably why it's not playing at the mall 16-plex down the street. They had a fatal shooting there at the beginning of the Holiday season.
***The teen sitting next to me watched a by-now expected somersault over a rack of clothes by one of the criminals and said, "What? He couldn't'a walked around?" thereby giving me hope for his entire generation.