Making the mall safe for citizens, Paul Blart

Posted: January 16, 2009

It's an only-in-Hollywood coincidence of the kind that brought moviegoers two Truman Capote biopics, two magician fantasies, and two first-daughter frolics within months of each other. Paul Blart: Mall Cop is, incredibly, one of two shopping-center security comedies slated for release this year.

The other, Observe and Report, stars Seth Rogen as a bipolar mall cop; Paul Blart stars Kevin James as a hypoglycemic patrolman of a fictional mall in West Orange, N.J.

You might say that in Blart, about a plus-size joe who passes out when he misses a meal, James evolves from The King of Queens to The Jester of Joisey.

The film, cowritten by the jolly James and Nick Bakay, is much like one of those Pixy Sticks that Blart periodically sips to boost his blood sugar: It has absolutely no nutritional value, but it makes you giddy. Bottom line: The film is completely forgettable, frequently funny and weirdly satisfying in a Jersey Loser Gets Respect kind of way.

As the lonely guy and single father, James is a pudgeball on a Segway, pulling wheelies and turns on the motorized scooter that you would not have thought were possible. This proves handy when the valiant mall cop goes up against a gang of skateboard virtuosos and gymnasts who hold up the shopping center.

Directed, as functionally as possible, by Steve Carr, the movie lacks much visual distinction. But it is distinguished by the nimble humor and nimbler moves of James, who has Charlie Chaplin's gift for making you believe that though his character is lying in the gutter, he is looking at the stars.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, Flickgrrl, at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/

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