By Clint Morris
The local shopping centre, or Mall, is somewhere Iâ€™ve spent a lot of time at. It doesnâ€™t really excite me at all to go there (but maybe as a youngster it did), thereâ€™s very little surprises to be had (except, of course, on those days when the power goes off at the Ice-Cream stand and theyâ€™re forced to give out their entire product-line for free. Itâ€™s only ever happened once in my presence unfortunately), and, though it may advertise it self as such, it doesnâ€™t really have something for everybody (like, for instance, the guy whose more interested in buying ex-rental Blu-Ray discs than buying cheap slacks at a no-frills menâ€™s clothing store). If anything, the Mall is a diversion for a couple of hours â€“ something to fill in time.
And funnily enough, most movies set at the mall are the same. Theyâ€™re (flicks like â€œMallratsâ€, â€œJingle All The Wayâ€ or straight-to-video actioner â€œBreakawayâ€, which, like this, centers on a normal guy going up against terrorists that have overtaken a Mall) an entertaining enough diversion, and are sometimes even fleetingly fun, but mostly, theyâ€™d excite you more if you hadnâ€™t already been there-done that â€“ or, for that matter, werenâ€™t out of diapers.
Kevin Jamesâ€™ new shopping centre-centric comedy might be the one that breaks the mould though â€“ itâ€™s refreshing original, immerse with good gags, and even, dare I say it, memorable. Yes, itâ€™ll probably work better on your 12-year-old nephew, but as something thatâ€™s using familiar terrain to juggle jokes, not to mention headlined by an actor thatâ€™s merely channelling John Candy (and not even the John Candy of â€œSplashâ€ or â€œPlanes, Trains & Automobilesâ€ but Candy of â€œThe Great Outdoorsâ€ and more so, â€œArmed & Dangerousâ€), thatâ€™s quite an achievement. Itâ€™s no wonder â€œPaul Blart : Mall Copâ€ has garnered as much greenback as it has at the U.S Box Office.
Produced by the usually-reliable gang at Adam Sandlerâ€™s Happy Madison Productions (â€œBilly Maddisonâ€, â€œGrandmaâ€™s Boyâ€, â€œThe House Bunnyâ€), â€œMall Copâ€ is essentially a spoof of â€œDie Hardâ€ with Jamesâ€™ lone hero, in this case a proud and ambitious shopping center security guard, going up against the criminal troupe that are holding the centre â€“ and its staff â€“ hostage.
Utilizing the storesâ€™ products â€“ be it flashy cop suits, sporting goods, or some hot chilli sauce â€“ Blart single-handedly succeeds in thwarting each of the biking, skating (yeah, someoneâ€™s seen â€œPolice Academy IV : Citizens on Patrolâ€) thugs.
This is easily Jamesâ€™s best work on film. He was amusing in â€œHitchâ€ and â€œI Know Pronounce You Chuck & Larryâ€ (which teamed him with this filmâ€™s producer, Sandler), but this is a real showcase for him â€“ if only because heâ€™s in every scene. Heâ€™s not hilarious, not even â€˜funny to watchâ€™ in the sense that Sandler and Will Ferrel are, but he makes for a likeable normal Joe. His character, sort-of a cross between over-ambitious Ron Burgundy and family-first Uncle Buck, is a good one and has the potential to live on through imminent sequels.
Director Steve Carr probably couldâ€™ve got to the guts of the story quicker â€“ the first half hour is spent getting to know Blart; it isnâ€™t until about 40 minutes in that the hostages take over the Mall â€“ but heâ€™s still managed to craft a universally-entertaining and quite â€˜arrestingâ€™ comedy. Typical of Sandler-produced comedies, itâ€™s got a great soundtrack too â€“ 80s gems by Survivor and ELO can be heard – the man has great taste.
Sequel should be along in a couple of years.