April 19, 2018

POPCORN: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” Bargain Basement Bull

1.5 popcorns

 

1 & ½ popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer

 

Mrs. Goldberger taught me nothing if not to be a snob. But I think if I were sitting at her kitchen table, having endless cups of coffee, puffing on cigarettes (we all smoked then) and discussing “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” she’d laugh and, in her European accent, say, “He’s so silly, and he needs to lose weight badly. But he’s brave, and he loves his daughter so much. She’s a little overweight already, too. She should watch. The second wife left him after six days, no? Poor guy…he’s not a real policeman, you know… just in the mall. You like him?”

“Nah, but a few parts of his movie are funny. I probably laughed as much if not more than any of the mostly adolescent audience…not because it was funny, but out of bemusement, finding it curious what the filmmaker thought was comical. They’re going for the lowest common denominator, and where they think that resides is pretty nutty in itself. The hypocritical thing is, it’d be politically incorrect to say Blart was fat, yet you’re urged to laugh at his appearance.”

 

That’s pretty much how it would go. And if Mom asked if I were hungry and wanted some potato latkes, a nod of affirmation would have her whipping up those fritters in just a few nanoseconds while I expounded further. There’s nothing like the smell of world class potato pancakes bubbling in oil to stir the scholarly juices and make all critical pursuits achievable. I’d note that Kevin James’s title character draws on the classical, heroic poor slob in comedy…the archetype molded to sad sack perfection by Buster Keaton.

 

I’d be stopped short there. “Oh, Buster Keaton….such a sad face. He’s no Buster Keaton. Buster Keaton was really funny…not make believe funny like him.”

“I know, Ma. I’m just saying he aspires to that style of comic characterization.”

 

(Psst! Mom knows what I’m saying. She just wants me to elaborate with a bit more intellectual panache…exercise the gray matter, if you will.)

 

She might then add, “He was skinny, Keaton. Maybe too skinny. Eat, or you’ll be too skinny”

 

“The thing is, and I feel a little bad about it, I don’t particularly like Paul Blart, whereas at least a modicum of empathy is necessary if the loveable loser is to be a successful example of his comedy phylum. The ceaseless self-aggrandizement, recurrently contradicted by proof of his ineptitude, and then again disputed by incongruously savvy sleuthing, an act of courage or dumb luck, is just hodgepodge, production line absurdity.”

 

“But he loves his daughter.”

 

“Precisely. Their relationship is the only constant in an erratic script. It’s the legitimacy that’s supposed to ameliorate a very thinly written character, pun shamelessly intended. Satirizing the helicopter parents of the day, he is a mass of paranoia. All this makes for a few chuckles. But it grows old quickly. ”

 

“She’s a nice girl? Or is she crazy like her father, too?”

 

“No, that’s the thing…played quite well by Raini Rodriguez, daughter Maya is perfectly normal…just a typical teenager trying to navigate around her looney dad’s rules and dictums. The subplot is that although she’s been accepted to UCLA, she’s afraid dear old dad will become unhinged at the prospect of her going way across the country to college.”

 

“Oh, but she has to go, such a big university…too bad if he’s lonely. I paid for you to go…almost $14,000.”

 

“I know, Ma. But anyway, Maya accompanies her dad to a convention of mall security guards in Las Vegas where, before long, they become entangled in an art stealing plot concocted by Vincent, a nefarious gangster played by Neal McDonough.”

 

“Oh, he always plays Nazi officers. He’s bad.”

 

“Yes, but not to worry. Rent-a-cop Paul Blart, always out to prove that the truly valorous law enforcement officers are those who protect our malls, is on the job, whether he knows it or not. The usual, farfetched derring-do ensues, with no small amount of slapstick to accompany the folly. Naturally he’s aided and abetted by similarly etched cohorts in town for the convention. What a crew. You can guess the rest. Oh, and just to round out the fantasy, the hotel’s beautiful manager, Divina (Daniela Alonso), develops a hopeless crush on our hero.”

 

“So, what are you going to say about the movie?”

 

“That it’s typical, predictable and doesn’t even attempt to inject some creative wit into the same old, same old. It’s dependent on its loyal audience’s acceptance of mediocrity for the sake of all too few laughs.”

 

“Okay, but say it nice. If you’re going to be a snob, be a tolerant one. There are people who like things like ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.’ Don’t insult them.”

 

My imagined consultation concluded, in summation, yeah, what she said.

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” rated PG, is a Sony Pictures release directed by Andy Fickman and stars Kevin James, Raini Rodriguez and Neal McDonough. Running time: 94 minutes

 

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