Sony // 2009 // 91 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // May 19th, 2009
Don't mess with his Mall!
An unprecedented box-office hit in January 2009, Paul Blart: Mall Cop stayed in the domestic top 10 for over 10 weeks and racked up a mighty $145 million in the USA alone. Considering the modest $26 million budget and unproven star heading the picture, Hollywood was deeply shocked, and already it has guaranteed itself a place as one of the year's biggest box-office surprises. However in the film industry financial success rarely ensures high quality, and so is Paul Blart Mall Cop just another mediocre effort that got lucky? The answer is both yes and no, the humor is at times obvious and thoroughly juvenile but by the same token the movie does sport a handful of credible chuckles and in the lead Kevin James is always affable.
Paul Blart (Kevin James, Hitch) is one of the local Mall Cops, a band of largely slovenly and unappealing individuals who patrol the shopping premises to the very worst of their ability. However Paul is different; stopped from joining the State Troopers due to his hypoglycemia, he takes the Mall gig seriously, dutifully carrying out the various tasks such work entails. His family loves him dearly but the outside population consistently underestimates Paul, including crush Amy (Jayma Mays, Red Eye) and various other Mall inhabitants. Things take a turn for the worst when a bunch of highly skilled criminals infiltrates the Mall, leaving the police and law enforcement stranded outside. However unbeknownst to the crooks, Paul remains inside the vast complex and it quickly transpires that he's the only line of defense against the bad guys, and the only hope for the hostages they've claimed.
It's not hard to see which audience was most enraptured with Paul Blart: Mall Cop on release: with its PG rating, simplistic story, and universal style of slapstick comedy, the movie suits family viewing perfectly, and the whole underdog theme only adds value in these trying times. It's a scientific fact that everyone loves a movie in which the no hoper rises up and gives it all he's got, facing impossible odds and life defining moments along the way. If you will, consider Paul Blart the Italian Stallion of Mall Cops, a likeable lug with only his determination and audacity to see him through.
The movie gets most of its comic mileage from its overweight star and clear spoofing of Die Hard, neither particularly innovative central conceits in the race for big screen laughter. So a round of applause for James who makes much of Blart's predictable fat jokes work, and never shies away from a chance to entertain the audience through his own humiliation. The picture starts well in actually developing Paul into a character and making the audience sympathize with him. He's a nice guy essentially, and James' charming and goofy screen persona helps invest a sense of innocence and determination in equal measure. Unlike other sleazebags, his approaches on Amy are respectful and unassuming, a factor helped by the tubby but immensely genial star's every man performance. Basically the movie actually provides you with a hero worth rooting for.
The picture manages a middling quota of laughs and ultimately is too formulaic to fully succeed; everything from the direction to the screenplay are workmanlike in the extreme, and where it not for James hectic and relentless work rate there's a fair chance Blart would be a fairly worthless example of American comedy. The romantic element of the picture misfires to, the character of Amy is given little to work with, and Jayma May's attempts are consistently uninspired. James tries hard to make this fraction of the story work, but ultimately bad writing and a dubious choice of female lead handicap it. The supporting performances are blander than vanilla, though some of the stunt work and freestyle routines the villains pop are at least visually impressive. Still, a cool skateboarding trick is never going to have the same appeal in the world of multiplex comedy as a solid and well timed laugh. Paul Blart is a little too short on these quality gags to satisfy as a comedy or indeed stand a chance of living more than 30 minutes in the audience's memory. Overall it's a pleasant enough little feature with an agreeable central performance, but not worthy of the mass box-office attention it was granted earlier this year.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop is not exactly the sort of film Hi-def was conceived for, but for this Blu-Ray release Sony has done a pretty sweet job. The colors are rich throughout with few examples of faded or ingrained image to grieve. The level of innocuous detail that the transfer captures is rather remarkable whilst facial and skin tones maintain a high quality throughout. The audio capability is equally as impressive, especially for a feature that has no great requirement for something so grand. Waddy Wachtel's score is given a chance to shine and it blends well with the other various sound effects and spoken dialogue. You won't find many explosions are massive action moments in Paul Blart: Mall Cop , but Sony have given it the audio and visual treatment one might expect from a holiday blockbuster. More power to them.
A commentary is biggest bonus feature, featuring Kevin James and one of the movie's producers. The track is laid back and doesn't command a great degree of artistic respect, but the two men share an acceptable rapport and overall it's a fun listen. The other features pretty much all follow the same ilk, relaxed and goofy, but with precious little filmmaking know how featured. I was intrigued by the featurettes that explore the vast and impressive array of stunts conducted in the movie, it had a lot of backslapping going on but overall it's pretty amazing that those dudes can pull of such athletic and complex physical work. In total the Blu-Ray has eleven of these superficial but vaguely amusing featurettes, those looking to get any technical insight will be disappointed, but for those seeking more of the picture's goofy hi-jinks, fun awaits. The deleted scenes are numerous but all equally yawn inducing, it's evident why they didn't warrant inclusion in the final cut. Also like most Blu-Ray releases of the moment, a Digital Copy is included as is BD-Live connectivity and content.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop is really no better than average, but in truth it's an inoffensive sort of mediocrity rather than a lazy or cash grabbing type. If you do feel the need to invest in the movie I would advise you go Blu-Ray, the work on this disc is very good and the bonus content probably above the norm. I wouldn't necessarily recommend an investment on those grounds alone, but if you've seen and liked the film, go out and grab a Hi-Def copy.
The filmmakers are sentenced to a Saturday Afternoon in Mall jail, but Kevin
James and the Blu-Ray wing at Sony are free to go on the grounds of remarkable
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Digital Copy