Within the first five minutes of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Paul’s mother gets hit by a truck and dies. She had it easy – she didn’t have to watch the movie.
In 2009, I remember Paul Blart as an innocently amusing klutz. Kevin James played a clumsy stereotype, but threw himself in the role of someone who hadn’t experienced the world outside his beloved shopping centre. When his territory was threatened, he utilized every resource, store and kiosk to prove himself. Paul Blart: Mall Cop was no comedic masterpiece, but it was a harmless way to pass the time.
Six years later, the audience tries to remember what we found so endearing the first time. James returns as Blart, but he’s crafted the schlep into an unlikable blowhard who is rude to anyone who blinks or breathes around him. He’s obsessed with being the centre of attention because he believes everyone should bow to Blart.
If Paul Blart had stayed inside his homestead mall, this sort of arrogant clout may have been acceptable. He saved the day after all! But, this lethargic screenplay (written by James and Nick Bakay) takes the doofus to an exclusive convention in Las Vegas, where every security guard is as moronic and obsessive as he is. It’s hard to fight for attention when everyone else is trying to hog the spotlight.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 doesn’t seem to go anywhere, but the film loves to travel around Vegas – especially the Wynn Casino. Little kids may enjoy watching James execute repetitive prat falls and play with projectiles, but adults will grow sick of the constant coverage promoting Steve Wynn’s radiant estate. Characters will have conversations about plot in the lower corners of the scene during wide shots that capture the opulent architecture of the lovely gathering areas and pool decks. The hotel staff appear on screen in a friendly manner, and an extravagant stage show is featured during a silly chase. In Happy Madison tradition, this alleged comedy is being used as a multi-million dollar commercial for a luxury destination.
There’s not one joke to be found in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. I scoffed when Steve Wynn appeared in a laughably obligated cameo, but that doesn’t count. There are obvious set-ups and goofy characters and physical comedy galore, but the aggressive deliveries kill the comedy. The humour depends on James’ burly weight and has Paul wiggle, jiggle, squirm, convulse, slide, and hop to generate laughter because a hefty guy would never naturally do these things. It’s humiliating to James and embarrassing for the audience.
Steve Carr directed the film’s predecessor and found some luck in the material. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was directed by Andy Fickman, an aloof filmmaker-for-hire with a disheartening filmography. For Fickman and James, this is just another gig. Meanwhile, the paying public is punished for giving the first film a passing grade. But, hey, why promote gratitude when you can cash a handsome cheque, right?