‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2’
Director: Andy Fickman
Stars: Kevin James, Raini Rodriguez
1 Globe (out of 5)
This might sound like sacrilege, considering the name has become shorthand for lowest common denominator entertainment — the “monkey tennis” of the new age — but here goes: Paul Blart is not a terrible idea for a character. He can even be well-played by Kevin James, a genuinely nice-seeming guy who seems to genuinely have talent. At heart Blart’s an old comic type: the person who puts on airs but can’t keep them up for too long. In “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” as in 2009’s shock monster hit “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” there are pratfalls and accidents involving vehicles and also fat jokes — lots and lots of fat jokes, many likely written by James himself. But there are tinier moments where we see a guy who just can’t help himself from being a more modest, and probably better person, than the version he wishes to project to the world.
The problem is — OK, there are a lot of problems. One of them is that there are only about three jokes, repeated ad nauseum, and none are too funny to begin with. They're also the same jokes from the first. The sequel relocates things to Vegas, where Blart will attend a rent-a-cop convention and foil an "Ocean's Eleven"-style heist, all while never straying far into Sin City, of course. But the relcoation doesn't change things up. One typical bit begins with airs-putting-on, and ends with a little, or big, humiliation. At one point Blart does a truly lovely and dexterous little dance with a Segway, just to show off. And then Blart gets hit by a car. This, or something just like it, happens a lot. In fact, about a third of the film is variations on Blart acting smooth then falling down or getting hit or fighting a fancy bird.
Another, even more significant problem is that Blart is both someone we’re supposed to laugh at — again, there are a lot of fat jokes — and also feel bad for, but not at the same time. It goes back and forth. It’s not that Blart needs to be a monster on the order of David Brent. James subscribes to the Sylvester Stallone school of oppressing his already put-down protagonist to the point where mere inadequacy leads to a sense of victimization. Whenever Blart screws up it’s a joke; whenever someone points out he screwed up it’s sad. A lot of characters exist solely to go up to him and, rather rudely, point out what a loser he is, at which point Blart makes a sad face against sad music. At this point our blood is supposed to boil, making us hunger for some kind of revenge, even if it’s in the form of him, in the second film as in the first, becoming the unlikely, perhaps inexplicable (albeit still bumbling) hero who thwarts some outlandish heist.