Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 review

Kevin James is back as Paul Blart. But there's nothing - nothing, nothing, nothing - here to make anyone think about a Paul Blart 3

This review contains a spoiler for the beginning of Alien 3.

In early 2009, Paul Blart: Mall Cop was Kevin James’ family-friendly answer to Die Hard, set in a mall in New Jersey. Released in US cinemas during a drought of kid-friendly fare, it stuck around in the box office charts for 12 weeks after it was released, eventually hoovering up $146m domestically. Just as quick off the mark as the titular character, it’s taken six years for the inevitable Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 to arrive.

After the genre trappings of the first film, it’s only logical that the sequel turns out to be a family-friendly Die Hard 2. That is to say, it’s basically the first one, all over again, in a different location and somehow not as good.

Six years have passed in story time too and over-zealous mall security guard Blart (Kevin James) is afraid that he has peaked personally. An invite to a prestigious security convention in Las Vegas, all expenses paid, cheers him up a little, and he takes his long-suffering daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) along for the ride.

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However, dastardly high roller Vincent (Neal McDonough) is planning to put Vegas’ world-famous security to the test by robbing the hotel where the convention is being held. Though racked by his own ego, Blart stumbles upon their plot and teams up with fellow convention delegates to save the day.

This covers the basics of the nominal plot, but almost broaches spoiler territory, if you go by the definition where you shouldn’t give away that happens after the first half hour of a film. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is 94 minutes long, but turns out to be absurdly bottom-heavy in terms of actual incident.

Aside from that, the first act is largely about setting up how terrible things have gotten for Blart since the last film, with an almost perverse way of writing out characters who didn’t return for the sequel. Jayma Mays had scheduling conflicts with Glee and Shirley Knight shows up for one downright disturbing scene. Seriously, considering that this is nominally a family movie, Blart’s wife and mother are written out in a manner as abrupt as Newt and Hicks in Alien 3.

Having started on awkward form, the film sets the bar just as low as it can, so that a moustachioed Kevin James can trip over it at any given opportunity. Repeated auto-accidents, running into clear glass windows and getting beat up by a peacock are just par for the course. Aside from all the “fat man fall down” jokes that persist throughout James’ filmography, the sequel also reprises the previous film’s flattest running joke, about Blart’s hypoglycaemia.

It gets to where you easily forget that Neal McDonough is in this, except for when he does show up with his phoned-in mania. A patchy, obviously improv-ed skit with Blart and Vincent arguing about who’s crazier is the closest that the film gets to raising a titter. It seems like the plot forgets he’s there too, as a crucial turn late in the game relies on a piece of information about Vincent that was either cut or forgotten earlier on, leading to one of the most bizarre villain dispatches in recent memory.

James, who again co-writes the sequel with Nick Bakay, is aiming even lower than producer Adam Sandler does in his own movies – this one aims younger and doesn’t travel as far for its exotic location shoot. There aren’t enough PG films on the market as it is, but condescending to kids as this does is less forgivable than if they’d just made a juvenile PG-13 film.

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It’s worse when you get a scene in which Blart cluelessly ‘assisting’ a drunken fellow officer in harassing a woman at a bar. This is played as his misunderstanding, certainly, but the woman (billed only as ‘Attractive Lady’) is inexplicably talked around by what passes for charm in a Paul Blart movie. “I guess I overreacted”, she says, about the slobbering, taser-wielding chump, who chooses that moment to fall over so we all split our sides laughing instead of thinking about that too much.

The only thing that really connects the juvenile slapstick and the unsettling (and nigh-undiagnosable) behaviour exhibited by Blart is that it’s not funny. It’s hard to imagine any kids who enjoyed the first one having waited eagerly these past six years for more of the same and, if they have, they’re going to feel patronised by either the elementary-level sight gags or baffled by the running jokes about a Kiss tribute band peopled by dwarves (yeah, really.)

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 isn’t rude like Adam Sandler’s movies invariably are, but it’s definitely about as funny as anything you expect from the Happy Madison label currently. It’s probably less fun than actually being hypoglycaemic and if 2021 brings us Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3, it will be some feat of cinematic limbo to set the bar any lower.

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1 out of 5