Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)

paul-blart-mall-cop-5074904f16395Translation: Fat Cop Fall Down, Funny!

Paul Blart: Mall Cop is a cheap Die Hard remake featuring a gang of criminals who take hostages during a Christmastime robbery, only to be thwarted by an overlooked patron they didn’t expect to be in the building. Instead of cleaning out the Nakatomi Tower, the evil masterminds in Mall Cop take on the West Orange Pavilion Mall in New Jersey. But these thugs are less competent than the thieves in the Home Alone franchise. I’m sure the filmmakers were aware of the similarities between their film and Die Hard and would argue that Mall Cop was intended as parody. That can’t be the case since parodies make tongue-in-cheek jokes in order to point out the silliness of a film or genre. Paul Blart: Mall Cop plays things pretty straight; it’s a far cry from something like The Naked Gun. To call Mall Cop a Die Hard parody is a poor attempt to justify a lazy script that borrows a lot of content. Even in this movie’s final moments, it directly rips off Al Powell’s epic redemption.

PB1 Al-Powell
Except in Mall Cop, we know nothing about the character who fires that day-saving shot.

Paul Blart (Kevin James) is fat. In case you didn’t already notice, the movie points this out for you multiple times in the first five minutes, showcasing his failed attempt to get into the police academy followed by his insatiable appetite for pie. That’s right everybody, our hero is chubby and likes junk food. So much that he needs sugar to live. No, seriously. He’s hypoglycemic and passes out if he doesn’t have sugar.

As if that weren’t enough to build the character’s likability, a montage in the mall establishes just how passionate he is when it comes to security. The film tries to pull wool over our eyes here; claiming Blart is good at his job because he picks up a shopping bag and hands it to a cute little kid. Now, the bag hadn’t fallen down or even tipped over, it was simply on the floor, standing upright. Blart motors by on his segue,  picks up this random bag and gives it to a child who happens to be standing near it. How does he even know the kid’s mom paid for the items in the bag? And why is the kid forced to carry the larger of the two bags? What is the point of this ten second sequence!?

PB2 He picks up bags all day and hands them to children. He is so helpful. LOVE HIM!!!

At home, Paul’s daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez), who can’t be more than twelve, signs Paul up for a dating website and comforts him when he doesn’t get any matches on his profile. Throughout the film, in fact, Maya seems more like the parent in her relationship with her father. Paul isn’t too upset about the lack of profile hits because he’s met a girl at the mall, Amy (Jayma Mays), who works in the one of the kiosks. We can tell they have a romantic connection because when they first see each other, time slows down and she flicks her hair around. That means love, right?

She works at a kiosk that sells wigs, but blows bubbles at kids for some reason. It’s the bag scene all over again.

So, when the mall invasion begins, Paul is conveniently hidden and distracted by a phone call on his new cell phone. You see, Blart is borrowing his friend’s daughter’s phone when her ex-boyfriend Pahud (Adhir Kalyan) calls him to shamefully give an incredibly racist, one-dimensional performance. His character has nothing better to do than call Paul Blart, and of course, to set up plot points that will conveniently pay off later.

This man has no shame.

While Paul’s on the phone, the bad guys clear out the mall and secure a few hostages, including Amy. The stage is now set. They don’t know Paul is there, and Paul must sneak around, John McClane style, to thwart their evil plans.

Die-Hard PB7

And just what do they have up their sleeves? Well evidently, the scheme is to parkour around the mall and get six digit credit card codes (what?) from the payment machines in every store, then escape to the Cayman Islands, using the hostages for protection. How are they going to use these credit machine numbers to rob the mall if they are on the Cayman Islands? If their intention was just to walk out with some numbers, then what’s the point? If the numbers are some kind of master password, the stores can just change the password once they’ve board their plane.

How about this: they’re in a huge mall around Christmas time. Why not grab all the cash  from every store and go? There must be a small fortune in there. This method would be faster and wouldn’t require any hostage-taking. Instead, they make a confusing plan even more confusing when one of the hostages, a security guard trainee named Veck (Keir O’Donnell), turns out to be the leader of the criminal gang. Ladies and gentlemen, this is unnecessary twist number one! The plan obviously would have worked without an inside man, since Veck’s gang got into the mall and took it over without his help, taking him as a hostage along the way.

He actually spells it out for us. “Here’s the craziest part. I’m their leader.

Hidden inside the mall, Blart calls the police. Now the cops, that is, the actual police officers, are the most useless wastes of skin on the planet. Their response to a hostage situation in the mall is to gather five cars in one spot, about a hundred feet away from ONE of the malls many entrances. They don’t bother covering any doors other than the main entrance. There must be more than one way in though, right? Only holding one entrance would allow for people to come and go as they please. What about the underground parking garage exits? Somehow Paul’s daugher enters the mall, uncontested, through a back door while bringing him his lunch. She ends up among the hostages as a result. How could this happen? The jokes in this film are often at the expense of security guards in general, but police officers who fail to protect citizens through sheer negligence make them way more useless than Blart ever could be. How hard would it have been to secure the perimeter by surrounding the mall at every entrance?

Well, wouldn’t you know it, after Paul accidentally slapstick-humours his way past all of Veck’s criminal henchmen, Veck escapes with the hostages, unnoticed, through a back door! Now, perhaps the police weren’t really being incompetent, since (SPOILERS) the head of the SWAT team in charge outside the mall was also working with Veck and the criminals. Hey, there’s unnecessary twist number two! But that’s one officer out of an entire SWAT team. No one else on the team was ever concerned about the possibility of a back door escape?

Paul Blart manages to track them down though, thanks to Pahud. Luckily he had explained earlier, in his seemingly needless conversation with Blart, that he had a GPS tracking device installed in his ex-girlfriend’s phone, stalker style. Fortunately Veck stole Paul’s phone during all the physical comedy, and Paul can now track his movements through the GPS and save the day! And once his heroic work is over, all that’s left to do is marry the girl he’s known for two days.

At least the sequel explains why this is a bad idea.

Mall cop is a terrible movie, obviously, but is it so bad it’s funny? I will say that Kevin James actually does a decent job with what he’s given; it is a fairly natural performance. His character is very obvious and predictable though, and feels the need to change outfits three times while his life is in danger during a hostage situation.  Overall this is an easily forgettable film that exists to make money more than to entertain, and it must have succeeded at that since it got a sequel, albeit six years later. It’s mediocre in every way, more a product than a film. Check it out if you’re interested but you really aren’t missing much.


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