Sometimes, the worse movie of a similar pair becomes the more popular one. Megamind was a lot smarter and wittier than Despicable Me, but it was the latter that got the sequels and the high grosses. Ditto for the sharp Surf’s Up and the dull Happy Feet.
In 2009, two comedies about mall cops hit theatres. Observe and Report was a brilliantly twisted and pitch-black comedy about a modern-day Travis Bickle; Paul Blart: Mall Cop was a sophomoric, 90-minute fat joke that forsook intelligence, timing, and basic common sense in favour of Kevin James falling down as many times as he could. No points for guessing which of the two is now back with a $38-million sequel and a choice April release date.
To say that Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is worse than the first one is both a given and an understatement. It’s terrible, but what makes it even more infuriating is that it’s not even that memorable or fun to hate-watch. It just bumbles around, killing screen time and an hour and a half of its audience’s lives, occasionally eliciting a mild chuckle purely due to the law of averages.
There’s no coherent plot so much as occasional catalysts that change the path of the movie’s meandering existence. The first is an invitation for Blart (James) to a security convention in Las Vegas. Once he and his daughter, Maya (Raini Rodriguez), arrive in Sin City, the movie idles for its first half.
The second half of the movie — which is likely what you will be expecting the whole movie to be about if you’ve seen the ubiquitous trailers and commercials — involves Blart learning of an art heist, sloppily written and lazily conceived by the film’s screenwriters, and stopping it. Do not be fooled into thinking it’s the overall story of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, though, as there isn’t one; the first half of the movie is essentially just the first act of the whole story, the second and third acts of which are over and done (thankfully) in less than an hour.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop at least had a vague semblance of a story and tried somewhat, even though it generally failed. This movie, though, is so amazingly lazy, it’s like there actually was no writer or director, and everyone working on the movie just tried to do their jobs and hope it would all work out somehow.
You get the feeling that if not for James just liking to play the character (though his passion sure isn’t evident onscreen), Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 wouldn’t have even happened. A movie being on autopilot is bad enough, but without there even being a destination set out in the beginning, it’s amazing the movie’s as intelligible as it is (which is still barely at all).
The movie has such a disdain for its lead character, too, that you can’t even root against Blart, which is just a mean thing to deprive audiences of when the film itself holds him in such contempt. In its lean 89 minutes of action (minus its closing credits), Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 has 39 jokes revolving around Blart’s weight, size, body shape, lack of energy, and love of eating. That’s one fat joke every 137 seconds. What economic comedic value!
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is reminiscent of a truly rotten age in film comedies that existed around the turn of the century, when tripe like Freddy Got Fingered, Joe Dirt, Corky Romano, Boat Trip, and The Master of Disguise polluted theatres on a regular basis. The sad truth is that trend appears to be reviving. (Less than three months until the release of Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Losers!) All one can do is hope Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is the worst it gets this time around.