A film review by Craig J. Koban April 23, 2015


2015, PG, 94 mins.


Kevin James as Paul Blart  /  Raini Rodriguez as Maya  /  Eduardo Verástegui as Eduardo Furtillo  /  Daniella Alonso as Divina  /  Neal McDonough as Vincent  /  David Henrie as Lane  /  D. B. Woodside as Robinson  /  Nicholas Turturro as Nick Manero

Directed by Andy Fickman  /  Written by Kevin James and Nick Bakay

Even the cold minded and harshly analytical critic in me respected and modestly admired 2009’s PAUL BLART: MALL COP.  

Outside of being a dutiful slapstick action comedy that utilized Kevin James rather well, the film also managed to be a surprisingly well-orchestrated and sly send-up of the first DIE HARD film.  It was a real come-from-behind comedy in the sense that it started rather flat-footed, but just when you thought it lacked wit and ingenuity it unleashed ample satirical jabs at the iconic John McClane-infused film series.  In many ways, PAUL BLART began as an obligatory and fairly rudimentary farce that developed into a fairly sophisticated and rather funny spoof of action film clichés and conventions.  That, and the film contained a genuinely likeable performance by James playing a loveable schlub that morphs into a kick ass – albeit affectionately bumbling – action hero. 

Alas, for as much good will as the first film bestowed upon us, PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 is a prime example of how sequels pathetically ignore every good quality of what made their antecedent so winning.  To be fair, a sequel to PAUL BLART was an industry certainty (the film was a sleeper hit back in 2009, making nearly $150 million), but nearly every pore of this follow-up stinks of morose comedic desperation at every waking turn.  Everything this time seems monotonously strained when it's not allowing one-dimensional characters to run afoul through a plot on pure auto-pilot (which, by the way, lazily rehashes the premise of the first film, but with minor geographical alterations here and there).  



Beyond being an unnecessary continuation of the first film, PAUL BLART 2 makes the categorical error of making its titular character as exasperatingly dislikeable as possible.   Whereas in the intro film Paul was a nice, very needy, calm spoken, and affable man that was hard not to feel sorry for, here he’s been inexplicably transformed into a bitter, crude, and sometimes toxically hateful buffoon.  I felt pity for Paul in the first film, whereas here I wanted to slap him. Regardless, PAUL BLART 2 takes place very soon after the events of the last film and does contain the film’s only genuine series of sustained laughs.  It appears that Paul’s wife of one week has left him, leaving him in a tearful state of self-loathing.  To make matters worse, his dear old mother is run over by a milk truck and killed (don’t ask), further leaving him a blubbering wreck.  His daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) has just been accepted to UCLA, but she predictably can’t bring herself to relay said information to her grieving dad, fearing that a move away from New Jersey to California could kill him.  Positive things turn up, though, for Paul when he’s given an invitation to attend a national convention of rent-a-cops in Las Vegas, which more or less helps set up PAUL BLART 2 as a vacation for its actors masquerading as a movie shoot. 

Being a proud security officer – and one never willing to turn down a free trip – Paul decides to head to Vegas and the Wynn Hotel – daughter in tow – for some much needed R and R.  Unfortunately for Paul and everyone else at the luxury hotel, the villainous Vincent (played in his umpteenth baddie role by Neil McDonough) checks in too with the ulterior motive of secretly stealing all of the hotel’s priceless works of art…and mostly in plain sight.  Of course, it stands to reason that none of the hotel’s qualified and exemplarily well trained security guards are able to deduce Vincent’s plans, but when Maya and a young hotel boy she’s crushing on (David Henrie) gets caught up in Vincent’s nefarious plot, Paul realizes that he just may be the only one that can save his daughter and apprehend Vincent’s crew before it's too late.  Of course, Paul – as was the case in the first film – hits a few major stumbling blocks alone the way.

Kevin James is an exceedingly likeable performer.  He really is.  He definitely has an everyman quality working for him in his various film roles that makes good use of his keen abilities at physical comedy.  James in PAUL BLART 1 got many laughs at the expense of his character’s haplessness and, more importantly, didn’t have to resort to lowest common denominator potty-mouthed humor to elicit giggles.  He tries very hard to carry PAUL BLART 2 on his not-so-inconsiderably sized shoulders, and he’s a more than adept comedian when it comes to slapstick antics (whether it takes the form of being hit by a car, running head first into a very transparent looking plane of glass, or being attacked by a large bird).  I will give James some much-needed points for effort here; he has a willingness to embrace the sheer lunacy of his character with a real relish. 

Yet, only so much of witnessing Paul physically and emotionally embarrasses himself time and time again can carry the comedy this go around.  That, and Paul, as previously mentioned, has moved away from being a clueless, yet loveable schmuck with a heart of gold and into one that becomes nearly as irritating as fingers on a chalkboard early on in the sequel.  There’s smugness and petty arrogance that permeates Paul throughout that makes it really difficult to latch on and root for him later against Vincent and his art-stealing goon squad.  The complete psychological 180 degree turn for the character is a rather large and disagreeable turn off, but perhaps the other major creative blunder in PAUL BLART 2 is that its lamentably simple minded plot feels like one big infomercial for the Wynn Hotel (hell, the film even has a rather forced cameo by Steve Wynn himself late in the proceedings).  

Most regrettable, though, is the fact that it takes seemingly forever for PAUL BLART 2 to find its footing as an action comedy akin to the 2009 film, during which time we get many ham-invested storylines involving strained father/daughter bonding while she tries to keep her college acceptance a secret and another inexplicable love triangle between Paul and the lovely hotel manager (Daniella Alonso) and the hotel’s chief of security (Eduardo Verastegui) that seems to come completely out of left field.  McDonough himself seems to forget that he's in a comedy, which makes his performance come off as unintentionally funny (granted, he has a verbal sparring match with Paul near the film's climax that has some sustained moments of inspired tomfoolery).  Unfortunately, some of the other gags and pratfalls also seem to go on for audience endurance testing limits, such as one would-be uproarious sequence involving Paul crashing a performance of Cirque du Soleil’s “Le Reve" that's never as hysterical as it thinks it is. 

You know...I'm trying to be awfully fair to PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2, seeing as I gave the first film a decent three-star review.  I just can’t in good conscience recommend this lumbering, lifeless, and consistently unfunny sequel that takes ample relish in eliminating whatever passable entertainment value that its predecessor possessed.  That, and James is too gifted as a big screen funnyman to allow himself to wallow in tacky and inane film ventures like this.  PAUL BLART 1 displayed some genuine innovation with its premise that legitimately took me by modest surprise.  PAUL BLART 2 is surprisingly charmless and displays a damning amount of creative lethargy; it’s the poster child for ill-conceived sequels. 

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