The first thing I noticed about “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” is the utterly unabashed use of prominent brand placement: Wynn Hotels, Las Vegas, La Reve and M&M’s, to name a few. Steve Wynn himself snagged a walk-on cameo — probably worth bucks to the production. Later I learned that this was the first film to receive Nevada’s new tax credit. So, kudos to the producers on sourcing financing.
No such kudos to the director and writers, however. The story could have been a beautiful comedy about solidarity with the team, about letting go, a father’s need to set his daughter free to move on to college at UCLA amidst a topsy-turvy “Oceans 11” slapstick heist story where, for a change, the good guys are goofy social misfits and the beautiful people are the bad guys.
Writers Kevin James (who stars as “Blart”) and Nick Bakay created the characters. My guess is there was no screenplay at all — that the actors were given the story idea and improvised scenes. Some worked: a fantastic face-off between Kevin James and Neal McDonough’s villain, and a scene where “Blart” stumbles into a production of La Reve creating havoc amidst the acrobats. A trade show of “Non-Lethal Weapons” attended by the security officers provides tools for a funny rooftop battle later. If only such scenes had been linked to a symphony of hilarity moving the story forward. But sadly, they weren’t.
Cinematography by Dean Semler has flashes of brilliance. Blart ascending an escalator with a time-lapse panorama of the Las Vegas strip flowing behind him? Gorgeous. Blart zipping through the colorful lobbies of the Wynn and Encore on a Segway? Zany and colorful. Again, these great glimpses of style don’t carry through the film.
Most of the characters seem incomplete. James’ Blart is unnecessarily mean, negative and entitled through the first half. He orders a bottomless bowl of M&M’s for his room after exhibiting clear signs of diabetic hypoglycemia; later he devours the bowl — with no negative consequences! What kind of life lesson is that? Many of the scenes seem unnecessary, overplayed or too long.
Eduardo Verastegui stands out in his role as the villain with a heart of gold — he thankfully plays the character with subtlety, a relief in a sea of overacting. Raina Rodriguez keeps her genuinely innocent quality amidst the chaos. Nicholas Turturro’s talents are wasted — he spends most of his camera time asleep on a couch.
This is a movie you can take the kids to, and it’s been a huge success at the box office, yet critics panned it. It is frustrating that the industry is so driven by profit formulas today. Competition to make an artful film is taken out of the game. Why can’t we strive for the high standards of comedies made in the beginning of film history — works of Chaplin, Buster Keaton, even the Three Stooges? Those had stories that drove the momentum and a defining style and rhythm. Alas and alack!
Rated PG. 94 minutes.
Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at email@example.com.