Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)

After his hypoglycemia left him falling asleep just inches away from reaching the finishing line of the New Jersey Police Academy obstacle course, Paul Blart (Kevin James) decided that the next best thing to carrying a badge and gun was carrying a badge and riding a segway as a ten year veteran in the security department at a New Jersey suburban mall.

Still opting for the same cop stereotypes of the tough guy retro '80s mustache and chewing way too much gum at any given moment-- to say that Blart takes his job seriously would be an understatement. If there's a scuffle in a Victoria's Secret--although he refuses to hit a woman-- he'll jump right in the mix, threatening to make a citizen's arrest which isn't exactly effective as technically a citizen has the exact same right.

When he isn't writing reports about how to best ease the shopper foot traffic from Macy's to the specialty stores by circumnavigating people away from the busy food court, he's trying his hardest to flirt with a beautiful kiosk employee named Amy (Jayma Mays) who senses his sweet side despite a rather bizarre early impression when he crashed his segway directly into a van while scoping her out.

Of course, given that his competition is a pen-selling creep who's overly fond of man-jewelry, we realize that anyone else, especially the earnest Blart would be a vast improvement. And despite his battles with his hefty weight, fondness for comfort foods along with never encountering a nacho eating contest he didn't want to enter in jest with his favorite coworker, James is essentially playing an Ernest Borgnine styled Marty character who, having been dumped by his previous illegal immigrant wife who'd married him for citizenship, remains a devoted son (to Shirley Knight) and father (to Raini Rodriguez).

However, following a hectic day of record breaking Black Friday sales, the mall is held up Bad Santa style by a group of criminals all eager to secure the credit card codes from various stores. Although he usually avoids the same type of time-suckage favored by his cohorts, when locking up the arcade that even, James lets out with a wailing version of "Detroit Rock City" on Rock Band, before he begins trying to use a friend's daughter's cell phone whose decidedly non-Blart ring-tone Rasheeda's "My Bubblegum" provides the most cell phone laughs since McConaughey's was set to "Sometimes When We Touch" when his character was called by Stiller in Tropic Thunder.

But I digress and back to Blart-- when the mall is cleared out save for a few hostages in the bank, including Amy and later James's own daughter, Blart gets his opportunity to become the mall cop version of Die Hard's John McClaine and Stallone's Rambo by trying to outmaneuver the athletic and acrobatic team of villains, played by extreme sports icons.

While James is surprisingly good at his pratfalls as he slides, dives, flips and maneuvers into a variety of slapstick friendly situations (making the reliance for comedy in the film ultimately upon physical instead of verbal jokes), the group he's up against are all pros including some renowned record holders and award winners such as skateboarders Mike Valley (aka Mike V) and Jason Ellis, BMX gikers Mike Escamilla (aka Rooftop) and Rick Thorne and free runners Victor Lopez and Natascha Hopkins.

While James makes a likable hero and believable everyman-- the success of which was proven on his long-running CBS sitcom The King of Queens-- and producer Adam Sandler's Happy Madison productions decided to invest in that quality following their collaboration in I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, mostly Blart works as a mildly amusing roughly ninety minute diversion.

A nice change of pace to experience a genuinely PG rated comedy which appealed to Daddy Day Care director Steve Carr who appreciated the fact that the film "was family accessible but not aimed specifically at a kids audience," while ultimately it seems like it would've played better during the holiday season of '08 to tie the events in with its release, the gentle small screen approach of the film keeps you entertained. Even though, admittedly you realize that it could've used a few more rewrites to step up the comedic mine-field that was waiting just based on the title alone.