Ten minutes of watching this and I was fixing to put my smart-arse put-down critic head on, lining Paul Blart up for a sound critical kicking. Bland, unimaginative, generic, clichéd and lame – it wasn’t looking good, to be honest.
After failing to make it as a police officer, Blart (Kevin James), makes ends meet working as a security guard in a mall. His private life is no more inspiring – he lives with his mum and daughter, his wife having scarpered after using him to get a green card.
Reluctantly nudged in the direction of online dating by the women in his life, Paul instead dotes on mall concession girl Amy, a woman whose key attribute appears to be her resemblance to Bambi, yet his inability to be anything other than a complete jackass seems to prevent him taking that crush anywhere significant.
Fortunately for Paul, opportunity to achieve anything other than lameness rears its head, as the mall is targeted by criminals (oddly, criminals with a predilection for extreme sports) for a grand-scale robbery, with sweetheart Amy among those being held to ransom. Somehow trapped inside the building, Blart is the only man who can save the mall, take down the bad guys – and get the girl into the bargain.
As I mentioned, after 10 minutes it shapes up to be a woeful, by-numbers action comedy – and it is, but oddly it glides through on a breeze of harmless good intentions and Hollywood know-how. You see, Channel 4 recently did a series Inside Nature’s Giants, where they peeled away the outer skin of large beasts to examine their internal workings – Paul Blart is the same idea if applied to a major mainstream film.
Shorn of a star to build the film around (Kevin James is solid and entertaining enough, but has a ultimately forgettable presence), devoid of a script of any imagination or gags to speak of, an absence of any stunts, CGI or FX, what Paul Blart: Mall Cop exposes is the mechanics of a Hollywood film.
Without any of those key elements that make a film special or remarkable, what remains is a well-refined skeleton – a template of narrative structure and character arc that has been perfected over years, one that pushes all the right emotional buttons, knowing how to provoke a Pavlovian response in the viewer.
Granted, if I wasn’t reviewing it I’d have turned off a lot sooner, but let that not detract from the film’s curious achievement of competence.
It’s not difficult to spot that Paul Blart is in fact tepid family comedy with few high spots, but it’s weirdly watchable, despite the veneer of blandness. It’s a triumph of commercial application over artistic endeavour. Paul Blart is monosodium glutamate for the eyes.
Starring: Kevin James
Directed by: Steve Carr
Extras: commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes