For his leading man debut, lovable TV star Kevin James picked a weird vehicle — and we're not talking about the Segway Personal Transporter on which he hauls his chubby ass. As Paul Blart, a dumpy, mustachioed and overweight single dad and state trooper academy reject turned overzealous rent-a-cop, he's such a needy and feckless sadsack that he's almost more depressing than funny. As a friend very sharply put it, he's more like "Paul Blart: Douche Bag."
Paul's a "fun facts" windbag who's ridiculously strict in all matters of Mall Security. He's also a big open sore of insecurity whose hypoglycemia is a crutch to suck down more pie. His vulnerability borders on creepiness too; watch his awkward courting of a pretty kiosk worker Amy (Jamya Mays), who, by the way, looks like a generic knockoff of the other nerd crush, Anna Ferris.
In fact, Paul's such a pathetic mess that the first 40 minutes of material could've made for a pretty decent black comedy in the hands of, say, Paul Thomas Anderson. Unfortunately this turkey's helmed by a hack called Steve Carr, the one responsible for such hurl-inducing crap as Are We There Yet? and Daddy Day Care. So, yeah, Carr does his best to drive Mall Cop straight into the mud. The incompetence's glaring when the flick makes a harsh 180-degree turn midway, when skateboarding goons attempt to capture the mall, leaving Paul to stumble about the food court like a tubby Bruce Willis. Lame antics ensue with lots of "fatty falls down" gags. Watch him parrot Chris Farley and gamely toss himself down staircases and through windows, doing anything for a laugh but not getting them. Keir O'Donnell hams it up as the lead baddie, and the cast's rounded out by Allen Covert and TV actors Adam Ferrara and Bobby Cannavale.
This movie defines harmless kid-friendly fluff, being mercifully brief and short of gross-outs, but it's hardly more fun than, say, cruising Orange Julius.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.