Kevin James has a shtick. Some people refer to this as being a character actor. You and I probably call it “playing the same role in everything he’s in.” This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Lots of actors made their way playing the exact same character in multiple films. It’s why we have sequels. However, in such cases, the movie surrounding the character has to do a lot more heavy lifting to make the performance palatable.
That’s why Paul Blart 2 is so painful to watch.
I was a big fan of the first one. I think Kevin James’s shtick is funny. Plus, he’s apparently quite a devout Catholic, so I feel like I should support the stuff that he does. I have my limits, though.
If you saw the original Paul Blart: Mall Cop, it was a standard tale of the virtuous misfit loser who makes good on his dreams by overcoming massive odds. With a steady stream of clever quips and physical humor that made the whole thing work, you didn’t need a lot of plot or depth. It was just a good comedy movie that was at least worth a matinee fare. If you see the second Paul Blart, you are seeing a reheated version of the original. And we know how leftovers can spoil.
The basic story is that Paul Blart is going to a mall cop convention in Las Vegas, where he expects to be honored as the keynote speaker. Things haven’t gone well for our hero since the prior installment. With his daughter looking to leave for college, this sort of vacation is just what he needs. Hilarity then ensues when bad guys show up to steal a bunch of stuff, and Paul steps up to stop them.
What it all comes down to is that they took the first movie, transferred the setting to Vegas, and re-released the film. Even the above-mentioned physical humor is recycled with some jokes getting played almost precisely in the same fashion as in the original. Sure, there are some laughs because James is James and his stuff works. When you are essentially producing a carbon copy, though, blame has to be laid at the feet of James as writer and Andy Fickman as director.
I have to give props to Neal McDonough (another devout Catholic, by the way) as the villain in this piece. He’s not a guy known for comedy, but he took this role and transitioned exceptionally well from menacing to humorous in his scenes. He came off as having a lot of fun with the role, and his screen time made up a disproportionate part of the bright spots.
The overall shallowness of the whole feature doesn’t offer much opportunity for Catholic themes. There is a running subplot about the importance of family. However, James does have a monologue about the importance of his job at the mall contrasted against the abuse he takes for having such a lowly position. This is a good, albeit very brief, section that would allow for some reflection on the place of work in a Catholic culture, as Paul Blart definitely seeks sanctification through the sufferings of his occupation. Several people have emailed me about this scene, and I admit to being surprised at how effective it was for conveying that message. So it’s not a total loss on this front.
From a content perspective, this is about as tame as PG gets these days. The violence is corny. The language is mild. The sexual references are limited to mostly comments about male/female attraction in general. I took my 7-year old and would have brought him at even 3 or 4.
Ultimately, though, this is a bad movie. Really bad. I’m going to give it half a tiara based on a few chuckles, but I couldn’t help thinking through the whole thing that my time and money were being wasted.
Half a tiara
Review by Throwback
Thrownack blogs at Popin' Ain't Easy.