Friday, March 6, 2009

Paul Blart Mall Cop

A film of very modest pleasures, “Paul Blart Mall Cop” strikes me as 2009’s version of the Don Knotts movies we used to enjoy in the 1960s, movies like “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” (1966), “The Shakiest Gun in the West” (1968) and “The Reluctant Astronaut” (1967). Of course, I’m not forgetting Barney Fife here either.

No resemblance physically, of course. Knotts was a superb physical comedian who could contort his face into some hilariously demented expressions. “Paul Blart” star Kevin James, best known for his stint on the long-running sitcom “The King of Queens”, can’t match him for physical comedy, but his actions remind me of some of the mannerisms Knotts brought to his characters

Paul Blart is a mall cop, who tends to inflate his own self-importance (like Deputy Fife), but he’s essentially a good guy, adored by his daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) and mother (Shirley Knight). Like Don Knott’s many characters, he soldiers on even when people are laughing at him behind his back. He tries to do his best which usually ends in disaster.

When a gang of robbers take over the mall on Black Friday by a gang of robbers ready to hijack the stores’ credit card codes, Paul is in a store playing Guitar Hero by himself. He is given the option of getting out of there but stays behind to protect his mall. Not just protect the mall, but save one of the hostages, the cute and likeable kiosk salesgirl Amy (Jayma Mays).

It’s very predictable, but the film looks good, not stinting on production values. There’s some good stunt work involved, with that wacky running and jumping sport that was featured in “Casino Royale” (2006). Director Steve Carr keeps things moving and under the 90-minute mark, a blessing for a trifle like this.

There are a few chuckles, and the PG rating means the whole family can enjoy it. Thankfully, there are no bodily function jokes, Amy is adorable and if it’s not particularly memorable, it doesn’t grate on the nerves either.

Rating for “Paul Blart Mall Cop”: Two stars.

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