PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2
2015, PG, 94 mins.
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.
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).
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.
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
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).
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
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.