It is never a good sign when a film's publicity suddenly and screechingly comes to a complete halt.
This was the case with Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, a mostly ill-advised sequel that no one was really asking for but might've had a chance to succeed if it had arrived a wee bit closer to its 2009 predecessor. While I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who considers Kevin James a brilliant actor, he's always a likable one whose gift for physical comedy is evident and whose onscreen presence deservedly has its fans.
Unfortunately, James is saddled with a rather limp script, a bit of a surprise given that he's credited as co-writer on the film. I will confess that I was originally scheduled to interview a cast member from Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, but out of nowhere both local screenings and the interview were cancelled without explanation.
Now, I understand.
As a Happy Madison production, I will confess to being a tad surprised that there was a concerted effort to strive for the PG-rating here. For a film that already feels familiar and timid, the PG-rating pretty much guarantees that only hardcore Kevin James fans are likely to enjoy the predictability that unfolds. This time around, James is headed off to Vegas for a security guard conference where he may very well have the opportunity to speak.
Personally, I always thought these things were completely resolved in advance. I guess security guards are different.
While Blart was fairly content by the end of Mall Cop, a good majority of the gags won't work if Blart's not back to ragingly insecure and lonely. So, early on in the film his wife (Jayma Mays) and mother (Shirley Knight) are promptly dismissed (Don't ask!) and Blart's left with his daughter, Maya (Raini Rodriguez). Of course, Maya's just received the opportunity to head out to the coast for a college program. She'll get around to telling him eventually.
Blart arrives at his conference, but his focus stays on Maya. She takes a shine to a wait. They are both subsequently kidnapped by an international art thief because, well, they must've looked artsy.
I don't think any of this is really supposed to make sense.
I must confess that even when I'd said "Yes" to the interview, I had my doubts. The Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 trailer didn't elicit as much as a giggle from me, though I do recall feeling just a wee bit embarrassed for a cast working so hard to create a family friendly film that they forgot we're actually supposed to laugh - it's a comedy, ya know?
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 isn't horrible. In fact, horrible might've been kind of fun. It just lacks the spirit, spark, and authenticity that made us fall in love with the first film. Instead, we're left with the same guy doing, for the most part, things we've already seen him do. You might laugh a few times over the course of the film's 90+ minute running time, but by the time you've hit the car you'll have forgotten what movie you just saw.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic