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February 9, 2009


Movie Review – Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)


Paul Blart Mall Cop (2009)

I caught up over the weekend with the first big hit of 2009, Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It’s not a notable or accomplished movie, but it made me smile. Mall Cop is a likable, unpretentious comedy; its easygoing good humor makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. If you’re looking for something to see with the kids or the parents, you could do a lot worse.

Paul (co-screenwriter Kevin James, star of the long-running sitcom The King of Queens) is a single father who lives with his mom and daughter. His dream is to join the state police, whose qualifying physical test he has failed eight times. In the meantime, he takes his job as a security guard at a New Jersey suburban mall much too seriously. His aspirations to serve and protect are put to the test when a charismatic, intelligent criminal and his thuggish underlings take over the mall on black Friday, ostensibly to rob the bank. Paul must rescue the hostages, including his crush, the beautiful new clerk at the hair extensions kiosk, and foil the criminal mastermind’s nefarious plan.

If that last part sounds sort of familiar, it’s because the plot is an extended parody of Die Hard. Mall Cop is like a lightweight Hot Fuzz, the very funny 2007 British film that parodied buddy cop films and various other mystery and action movie conventions. The physical and situational comedy is amusing in itself, but the movie generates many more laughs if you know the original work.

Take for example the sequence where Paul tries to escape detection by climbing into the decorative air duct of a hip clothing store. The floor bulges under his weight, giving away his position, and ultimately collapses beneath him on top of one of his pursuers, knocking her out cold. That’s funny, but view it in comparison to John McClane crawling through the skyscraper’s air ducts in Die Hard and it’s a whole lot funnier.

Mall Cop casts a kindly eye on Middle American consumer culture. The deserted mall more closely resembles a playground than a battleground. It’s a cornucopia of attractive merchandise and an architectural wonderland; whenever Paul is in a tight spot, the mall provides. There are some good visual jokes when Paul lures his targets into the stores, especially in the elaborate fight staged against the faux-tropical decor of the Rainforest Café, but the film is at its best when the camera follows him around the concourse while he wages war from atop his beloved Segway.

That ends the review proper, but I want to add a point of cultural commentary. Mall Cop is very much aware of the contemporary obsession with weight loss and narrow standard of physical beauty. Paul is a fat man who must learn to love himself if he is to fulfill his true potential. His character arc is to conquer the crippling fear that his size determines his worth.

Given this context, it troubled me that Paul’s prize is a very thin woman with cover girl looks. I have no complaints about Jayma Mays’ performance or the characterization; it is a good performance and the character is an appealing and admirable person. My concern is with the decision to cast an actress with such a slender figure as the object of the hero’s romantic love in a family film that is so directly concerned with the nexus between body weight and self-esteem. The film is the more problematic in that it consistently portrays thin women as sexually desirable (the love interest, the teenage owner of Paul’s borrowed cell phone) and overweight women as either non-sexual (Paul’s mom and teenage daughter) or the butt of derogatory sexual jokes (Paul’s morbidly obese ex-wife, the obstreperous customer who gives him a smackdown in Victoria’s Secret).

2 stars

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 9 2009

    This movie reminded me of my childhood days.I think that kids between 8-15 will definitely love it.Adults will find this movie very cute.My average rating would be 7/10.

  2. Jun 6 2009

    I would not say this is the worst movie I’ve ever seen, not by far, it does have a few good laughs here and there. It just went into different directions and most of the funny scenes were used in the trailer already, so it was something that I was expecting. Also not to mention that this movie had the most unrealistic situations, for example, Paul tries to leap from a speeding car to a speeding van, but he misses and falls down, somehow he gets back up like nothing happened and continues to run and climb fences. I know fear makes you do some crazy things, but that was just completely unbelievable as well as the “love story” and there was no chemistry with James and Mays. I would say if you want a couple little laughs, rent it, but otherwise, I wouldn’t really say go out of your way to see it, it’s not Kevin James’ best work, he can do much better

  3. Jun 5 2010

    This movie was…ok…only because kevin james has a reputation of being funny. I was pretty disappointed with it and am glad I didn’t go see it in the theater.

  4. Helen
    Jun 5 2010

    I’ve always assumed it did so well in the theater because it came out at a dead time of year (January) when people were really hungry for something to see as a family. It’s not exactly a movie that cries out for the big screen.

  5. Nir Shalev
    Jun 7 2010

    I saw it on video and was mostly bored. I kept telling everyone to “wait for ‘Observe and Report'” because it’s the R rated version of Paul Blart and the PG rated version of Taxi Driver. :O)

  6. Sep 2 2010

    I loved it, but I’ve always had a twisted sense of humor.

  7. Sep 26 2010

    Yeah, I still laugh at juvenile humor.