January 22, 2009

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop (PG)
Kevin James blends chubby-guy humor and situational gags to create Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a mild and comfy comedy.

It’s like the mac & cheese of movies. Not spicy; a moderately sized portion; not terribly inventive with its flavors, but tasty nonetheless.

And Paul Blart (Kevin James) is a man who knows something about mac & cheese. He’s a husky guy who has hypoglycemia and has a tendency to faint if his blood sugar gets too low. It’s this ill-timed passing out that’s kept him out of the state police, even though he’s fit enough to otherwise get through the obstacle course. Of course, when he is passed over once again, he comforts himself with pie.

Until he can join an official law enforcement team, Paul pours his passion for serving and protecting into his job as a mall security officer. When robbers take over the mall, he finally gets a chance to prove his mettle — to himself but also to Amy (Jayma Mays), the cute girl he’s been pining for who runs the wig kiosk and who, of course, is one of the group taken hostage by the robbers.

“Yeah, OK, not bad” was my reaction to this movie as I watched it in a smelly, too-cold theater. But I sense that when I see this movie again — perhaps comfortably bundled in a blanket on my sofa while flipping around the cable stations some weekend when I’m snowed in or some day I’m home sick — I’ll like it quite a bit more. It is a movie that doesn’t ask too much of you. It’s a movie you won’t be embarrassed to watch with your kids but that isn’t so simple-minded you’ll feel like you’re suffering through it. It’s a take-it-easy movie, with comedy that is broad and basically inoffensive. For all that it isn’t giving the Judd Apatow movies a run for their money in terms of innovation or daring, it isn’t a poorly constructed comedy. This is funny broad comedy. Who among us can’t identify with being chubby, awkward and lacking in self-confidence (or, if you’re blessed with a good metabolism, fill in whatever physical characteristic has you staring disapprovingly in the mirror)? Paul is a basically nice guy but not a wimp. Even at his goofiest, you would be hard pressed not to like him. While some of the comedy from this dork-makes-good point of view might feel familiar, it never feels forced. B-

Rated PG for some violence, mild crude and suggestive humor and language. Directed by Steve Carr and written by Kevin James and Nick Bakay, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is an hour and 31 minutes and is distributed by Sony Pictures.