Review: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” is a “Die Hard” wannabe that misses the mark

The other night, I decided to relive some of my childhood and watch “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” The Kevin James comedy was hilarious to me in my younger years and brought me much joy. However, upon rewatching the film, I was disappointed to find that the film was not as funny as I remember but could’ve been better.

For those who have never watched the film before, I’ll give you a little rundown. Paul Blart, played by Kevin James, is a mall security guard who has constantly failed to become a police officer. Unlike many of the other guards, Blart takes his job very seriously to an almost annoying degree. However, everything changes for him when the mall is taken over on Black Friday by a group of criminals looking to steal all of the money from the different stores. Distracted during the situation, Blart is left in the mall with the criminals and decides to stay to prevent them from stealing the money and saving a group of hostages, which include his crush Amy, played by Jayma Mays.

If you take a step back from the film, it is obvious that the film is attempting to be a comedy version of “Die Hard” but in a mall. The premise alone of a security guard left to defend a mall from a group of criminals sounds great. But, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” fails to make it funny or interesting. In my opinion, if the film wasn’t a comedy, it would’ve be way better.

Let’s start off with our main character. Paul Blart would be best described as a creepy, power-hungry weirdo. When he first sees Amy, he becomes so distracted that he runs into a mini-van placed in the mall. After that, he decides to pass by her hair booth multiple times stalking her before her noticing and striking up a conversation. He even lets Amy ride on his Segway to her car, which he admits an offense that he could get fired for, all while giving a very creepy and disturbing face. Almost the whole time, Amy looks like she can’t wait for the interaction to be over so he can leave.

Along with this, Blart is set up to be a loser to the audience. He lives with his mother, played by Shirley Knight, and his daughter, played by Raini Rodriguez, who both try to set up on a dating website. Blart has been alone for years after his ex-wife and daughter’s mother left after getting a green card. Blart also has low blood sugar which prevents him from completing his police officer exam and makes him keep a Pixie Stick on him. He is even bullied by pen salesmen Stuart, played by Stephen Rannazzis, who claims that he and Amy are “practically together.” But the scene that tops the cake for him as a loser is when he gets accidentally drunk and ruins a party.

The film tries to derive most of its humor from Blart’s failure as a fat security guard who takes things too seriously. Highlights of this include trying to pull over an old man for speeding and getting into a fight with a woman in a Victoria’s Secret. However, these scenes are never funny and more awkward. If you do laugh, it will more than likely be because you don’t know what other response to have.

But, the main part of the plot kicks in when the mall is taken over by a group of criminals. The film also tries to bring in a twist with security guard trainee Veck Sims, played by Keir O’Donnell, being the mastermind behind it. Though I haven’t mentioned it until this point, which should show the real weight of the twist, Veck was a new security guard being trained by Blart. In total, Veck maybe had five scenes with only two or three of them actually including dialogue in them. This works against the film as the viewer has not formed a connection with the character to where his being evil is actually a shock.

From this point, it is up to Blart to stop the criminals from stealing the credit card codes from the stores in the mall. Blart bumbles his way into defeating these criminals who are not only half his size but also skilled in skating and cycling. Almost every defeat feels accidental and takes away from any of the weight of the situation.

One of the good things the film does do is establishing things that come up later on just like in “Die Hard.” Early on in the film, telephone vendor Vijay, played by Erick Avari, gives phone-less Blart his teenage daughter’s phone after grounding her. At one point in the film, Blart is given a call by Vijay’s daughter’s ex-boyfriend Pahud, played by Adhir Kalyan. Pahud mentions to Blart that he has a tracker on the phone, which Blart never questions or finds creepy. This fact is used later on when Veck steals Blart’s phone and Blart uses Pahud to help him track where he is going.

However, other times the opposite effect of this happens. As a present to make him feel better for embarrassing himself at the party, Leon, played by Jamal Mixon, gives Blart a bottle of hot sauce. In a tense scene where Blart tries to save the hostages, he uses the hot sauce on Veck to stun him. However, Blart just stands there giving Veck enough time to compose himself and escape with Amy and Blart’s daughter. This scene has no real point besides prolonging the film even longer than necessary.

In total, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” is just an average film. It never falls into the completely bad territory. It just has loads of wasted potential that keep it from being great. The jokes only occasionally will make you laugh and the performances are nothing to be excited for. This rewatch has been enlightening to me and shown that maybe some things do require a second watch to see if they are really as good as we think they are.

Rating: 6 out of 10

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