Is Kevin James the heir apparent to Chris Farley? He’s funny and fat — the two major necessities needed to make that claim are in place. However, I’m not ready to hand the torch to him just yet, especially since I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of his last big screen outing (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry). But Paul Blart: Mall Cop may be just what is needed to set him on the path, after all, it has been proven scientifically impossible to not laugh at rent-a-cops.
He didn’t make it easy for himself though. You see, he and Happy Madison Productions decided to make Paul Blart: Mall Cop a family friendly comedy (James co-wrote the screenplay). No nonstop deluge of curse words that would make Richard Pryor roll over in his grave. No full frontal male nudity. They aimed for a good ‘ole fashioned comedy that pokes fun at a lovable sad sack (who just so happens to be a mall security guard) and that’s pretty much all that they got.
Of course putting him into a ridiculously stupid situation is always helpful too. James, as Paul Blart, finds he must rise above his demons when confronted with a band of X-Game style thieves that decide to rob various stores within the suburban shopping mall he is paid to protect. At first, his instinct is to run to safety, but when he learns his daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) and the girl of his dreams Amy (Jayma Mays) are being held hostage, he figures to put to use the training he’s received from his many attempts at joining the NJ State Police. Armed with his Segway and a mall’s worth of armaments, he goes to battle — with some very funny and some very not so funny results.
Sadly, the not so funny scenes override the funny ones, two-to-one. For every fat guy nacho eating contest and misplaced “cool” Indian kid on the telephone scene there is a Rock Band scene in which he hilariously jams out and sings to the KISS classic, Detroit Rock City. I also couldn’t help but think that a relatively funny scene that finds Blart being discovered due to his belly rumblings (he apparently missed lunch) would have been better served had some high-pitched, squeaker farts been written in instead. Farts are clean humor, aren’t they?
But on some level, even the throw-away parts of Paul Blart: Mall Cop have some endearing quality to them thanks to the star of the movie. Kevin James, even in an underwhelming film, has a persona of a very likable guy and he challenges you to not like him. Go ahead and try. He forces you to root for the overweight guy, who has no social life and takes his menial job far too seriously without actually forcing you. I rooted for him and for his certainly doomed relationship (recall Annie in Speed remarked, “relationships that start under intense circumstances, they never last”). I hope she was wrong.
So as much as I would have liked it to have been, Paul Blart is not Kevin James’ breakout role. Shortly after watching the movie, I was hard pressed to remember what I had seen. The torch still rests with Farley for the foreseeable future.