With a heart that won’t quit, a stomach that won’t stop gurgling and a self-sworn oath to protect his turf, he’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Mild-mannered Paul Blart (Kevin James, “The King of Queens”) has always had huge dreams of becoming a State Trooper. Until then, he patrols the local mall as a security guard. With his closely cropped moustache, personal transporter and gung-ho attitude, only Blart seems to take his job seriously. All that changes when a team of thugs raids the mall and takes hostages. Untrained, unarmed and a super-size target, Blart has to become a real cop to save the day.
Attention, shoppers: Former King of Queens star Kevin James makes the successful leap to big screen leading man with this Die Hard meets Home Alone slapstick comedy produced by Adam Sandler. In his most empathetic role since his endearing scene-stealing turn in Hitch, James (who also co-wrote the script) stars as biggest loser Paul Blart, a 10-year veteran of the West Orange, New Jersey shopping mall, where he gets no respect from taunting kids who pelt him with ball pit orbs, or a senior who brazenly violates Bart’s strictly enforced speed limit in his motorized wheelchair. The film is slow to get rolling as it lays on the pathos as thick as the peanut butter the lonely, overweight and socially awkward Blart spreads on his pies (“Food fills the cracks in he heart,” he tells his mother). But then, a band of cycling, skateboarding thieves presumably recruited from the X games take over the mall on so-called Black Friday, the busiest holiday season shopping day. Blart is “untrained, unarmed, and presents a huge target,” but, like a plus-size John McClane on a Segway, he is the wild card determined to stop them and rescue his unrequited crush (Jayma Mays) who has been taken hostage. James carries the film on his massive shoulders (the supporting cast is strictly discount outlet, with comedian Adam Ferrara as a sympathetic cop and Bobby Cannavale from Will & Grace and Third Watch as a bullying SWAT team leader the most familiar faces). He proves himself to be an impressively agile physical comedian and he’s game for every body slam, pratfall, and tumble. Rated PG for mild violence, a few profanities, and a couple of gross-out gags, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is less crude than previous Sandler productions, more The Benchwarmers than Deuce Bigalow. –Donald Liebenson
Stills from Paul Blart: Mall Cop (click for larger image)