Paul Blart : Mall Cop

By Clint Morris

The local shopping centre, or Mall, is somewhere I’ve spent a lot of time at. It doesn’t really excite me at all to go there (but maybe as a youngster it did), there’s very little surprises to be had (except, of course, on those days when the power goes off at the Ice-Cream stand and they’re forced to give out their entire product-line for free. It’s only ever happened once in my presence unfortunately), and, though it may advertise it self as such, it doesn’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 men’s clothing store). If anything, the Mall is a diversion for a couple of hours – something to fill in time.

And funnily enough, most movies set at the mall are the same. They’re (flicks like “Mallrats”, “Jingle All The Way” or straight-to-video actioner “Breakaway”, 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, they’d excite you more if you hadn’t already been there-done that – or, for that matter, weren’t out of diapers.

Kevin James’ new shopping centre-centric comedy might be the one that breaks the mould though – it’s refreshing original, immerse with good gags, and even, dare I say it, memorable. Yes, it’ll probably work better on your 12-year-old nephew, but as something that’s using familiar terrain to juggle jokes, not to mention headlined by an actor that’s merely channelling John Candy (and not even the John Candy of “Splash” or “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” but Candy of “The Great Outdoors” and more so, “Armed & Dangerous”), that’s quite an achievement. It’s no wonder “Paul Blart : Mall Cop” has garnered as much greenback as it has at the U.S Box Office.

Produced by the usually-reliable gang at Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions (“Billy Maddison”, “Grandma’s Boy”, “The House Bunny”), “Mall Cop” is essentially a spoof of “Die Hard” with James’ lone hero, in this case a proud and ambitious shopping center security guard, going up against the criminal troupe that are holding the centre – and its staff – hostage.

Utilizing the stores’ products – be it flashy cop suits, sporting goods, or some hot chilli sauce – Blart single-handedly succeeds in thwarting each of the biking, skating (yeah, someone’s seen “Police Academy IV : Citizens on Patrol”) thugs.

This is easily James’s best work on film. He was amusing in “Hitch” and “I Know Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” (which teamed him with this film’s producer, Sandler), but this is a real showcase for him – if only because he’s in every scene. He’s not hilarious, not even ‘funny to watch’ 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 could’ve got to the guts of the story quicker – the first half hour is spent getting to know Blart; it isn’t until about 40 minutes in that the hostages take over the Mall – but he’s still managed to craft a universally-entertaining and quite ‘arresting’ comedy. Typical of Sandler-produced comedies, it’s got a great soundtrack too – 80s gems by Survivor and ELO can be heard – the man has great taste.

Sequel should be along in a couple of years.

Clint chats to Justin Long & Ginny Goodwin