Kevin James’ transition from overweight blue-collar TV buffoon to overweight blue-collar
The story is time-honoured, underdog-has-his-day stuff: Blart’s painfully earnest mall cop gives the often-humiliating job his all, despite constant ridicule from his fellow employees. His time to shine finally arrives on ‘Black Friday’, the infamously crazed post-Thanksgiving shopping day, when a gang of hightech criminals take over the mall, leaving Blart to thwart their plan.
Director Steve Carr (Daddy Day Care) treats his subject like a fleshly pinball, tossing him through every plate-glass window and down every flight of stairs, buffering the often lukewarm script with a non-stop cavalcade of wince-worthy physical gags.
Virtually every genuine laugh in Paul Blart involves James falling down. Otherwise, the humour is queasy and awkward, mostly stemming from everyone’s disdain for the kind-hearted fat man. The worst offender is Stephen Rannazzisi as pen salesman Stuart, whose steady flow of putdowns are so mean-spirited that they bypass funny completely and just seem cruel.
On the other hand, the inclusion of Jayma Mays as salesgirl Amy, was an inspired choice. Her full-moon eyes and generous smile lift the film out of its gutbucket slapstick. When Blart takes Amy on an impromptu Segway ride through the mall, her glee and his grin are so perfect, you almost think you’re watching Titanic on wheels.