Lightweight and Disposable, Paul Blart Sequel Funny Nonetheless
- Jeffrey Huston Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2015 16 Apr
DVD Release Date: July 14, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: April 17, 2015
Rating: PG (for some violence)
Run Time: 94 min
Director: Andy Fickman
Cast: Kevin James, Raini Rodriguez, Neal McDonough, Daniella Alonso, Eduardo Verastegui, Gary Valentine, Ana Gasteyer, D.B. Woodside
Most movie critics will likely dismiss Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, and even belittle it, but I can’t bring myself to join them. Sure, I can understand why they’d have no patience for it. This sequel is a fairly obvious cash grab, produced on a reasonable budget that can turn a tidy profit without too much marketing muscle required, and the plot itself is a retread of retreads. But this has something other generic formula comedies don’t: Kevin James.
To appreciate the value of James (Here Comes The Boom) you can compare him to his other contemporaries that are also often his co-stars, most notably Adam Sandler (also a producer of James’s films, including this one). Sandler, like some others of his troupe (Rob Schneider, David Spade, etc.), are good at knowing what their audiences find funny, but Kevin James actually is funny. Or more accurately, those other performers can be funny in moments but not enough to carry a movie. James can, and does again, even if barely and in spite of fairly routine shenanigans. Plus, Paul Blart 2 also has the benefit of being very family-friendly.
Modern physical comedy has been sadly reduced to pratfalls and shock gags. There are plenty of those here, too, as James milks the “fat guy fall down” shtick he’s built a career on (not to mention other absurdly violent stunts). But James is the rare contemporary comic that’s a true throwback, not only in the broad physical sense but also in more nuanced, subtle ways. From instinctive timing to hilariously metered expressions, to an affinity with props and being nimbly fleet-of-foot, James is to some degree alwaysbeing physical, playing the comedy, but in a way that is natural and pure, never forced. Without him, this movie would likely be a chore, but with him it has a lot of charm – as well as earned laughs, not just cheap ones.
It’s been two years since the heroic events of the first film that made Paul Blart a legend in mall security lore, but now he’s single again and as unappreciated as ever by the public he protects. His daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) has just been accepted to UCLA, which is literally across the country from their Jersey home. She can’t bring herself to tell him that she’s leaving him, especially in light of the excitement surrounding their free trip to Vegas where Paul has been invited to participate (and possibly honored) at a national convention for mall security officials.
What’s supposed to be an extravagant vacation ultimately turns into another high stakes mission for Blart as tech-savvy thieves plan to steal valuable artwork from the Wynn Casino, where the convention is being held. It’s a typical setup that allows Blart and his underdog associates to prove their mettle (even while bungling) against elite criminals, and in the face of an arrogant casino security team that openly mocks their blue-collar counterparts. Predictably, Blart’s daughter gets caught in the midst as a hostage, which helps strengthen a father/daughter bond that had been frayed by the prospect of her moving to California. Suffice it to say that comedy ensues, of both the slapstick and heartwarming varieties.
While all of that makes for a lightweight, even disposable movie, it’s also what helps make the laughs come easy. James alone keeps a smile on our faces, and that keeps the audience primed for guffaws when the film offers up its most calculated comic set pieces. From a fight scene between Blart and an exotic bird to a showdown between heist henchmen and the motley mall cops, the film had the audience (of all ages) I was with in both stitches and tears.
Though billed an action comedy (and appropriately so), the tone is generally light and sweet. Think of a Disney Channel tween sitcom without the laugh track; that’s the sensibility at play here. The characters are nothing more than live action cartoons, as is the violence (which occasionally goes to Looney Tunes extremes). It’s a stock brand of tried-and-true (if uninspired) comedy, but while it comes off as lazy and annoying in the hands of others, James can actually make it endearing.
James has an innocence about him that can be lovable in one scene and clueless or self-deprecating the next. Whether he’s being vulnerable or sticking his foot in his mouth, innocence is the foundation to his comedy and it’s what gives his antics an underlying humanity, even when the antics themselves are fairly conventional. James’s innate comic persona elevates the familiar to something that’s fresh and of-the-moment. He doesn’t telegraph his comedy; it spontaneously appears.
Bottom line, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is funny because Kevin James is funny. It’s that simple. It’s unfortunate it can’t be more, but it’s enough.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Drugs/Alcohol: Some alcohol consumption by adults at a bar. One man is drunk. Some casual drinking by young college-age adults at a party; one is referred to as drunk.
- Language/Profanity: None.
- Sexual Content/Nudity: Blart mistakes an attracitve hotel manager’s professional kindness as flirtation; this is a running gag. Blart’s daughter has an innocent budding romance with a hotel waiter. Some embracing and innocent kisses on the cheek.
- Violence/Other: A lot of comic violence, very much like a cartoon. At times involves gunplay, but nothing graphic. Occasional scenes of over-the-top comic violence: a woman is hit (and killed) by a speeding milk truck, Blart is dinged a few times by cars, and a person is kicked by a horse into the side of a car. A bird violently pecks at Blart. Other, more basic, forms of extreme physical violence occur too, including electric shock/tasering, but all very much in a light comedic cartoonish tone, and non-graphic. Blart’s teenage daughter is in peril due to kidnapping, but threatened beyond gunpoint.
Publication date: April 17, 2015