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Despite the fact that she’s featured prominently in the credits, two-time Oscar nominee Shirley Knight disappears within the first few minutes of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, her character unceremoniously run over by a milk truck.
Audiences forced to sit through this belated sequel to 2009’s surprise hit Kevin James comedy will not be as fortunate. While the original was no classic, it had a few mild laughs, and the plus-sized actor displayed a certain buffoonish charm. Such is not the case with this painfully unfunny, slapdash follow-up in which the title character is so relentlessly obnoxious that you’ll be cheering for the villains.
Not that they’re anything to write home about either, as led by veteran cinematic bad guy Neal McDonough. The film’s idea of giving the actor the opportunity to stretch is by having him wear a brown contact lens over one of his normally crystalline blue eyes.
The plot (or what little there is of it) concerns the titular mall security guard traveling to Las Vegas for a security convention with his 18-year-old daughter (Raini Rodriguez) in tow. Led to believe that he’ll be the surprise keynote speaker (aren’t these things supposed to be arranged in advance?), he proceeds to alienate everyone around him, including the hotel’s beautiful general manager (Daniella Alonso) who, in one of the endlessly tiresome running gags, Blart becomes convinced is constantly hitting on him. More egregiously, it later turns out that she does indeed find herself unaccountably attracted to the boorish rent-a-cop.
Speaking of running gags, the filmmakers seem convinced that the mere sight of James atop a Segway is inherently amusing, an idea that quickly wears out its welcome.
Anyway, Blart becomes unwittingly embroiled in a plot by the villain and his gang to steal priceless artworks from the Wynn Las Vegas hotel, where the movie was almost entirely filmed and which receives enough product placement to have presumably paid for the film’s obviously low budget. At one point, Blart blunders into the resort’s long-running stage show Le Reve (ka-ching!), and later Steve Wynn and his wife make a cameo appearance.
Labored sequences abound, from Blart’s violent fight with an angry peacock to when, in an effort to raise his sagging blood sugar, he lies underneath a child’s dripping ice-cream cone, lapping up the drops like a baby bird.
James tries hard, very hard, to inject the proceedings with slapstick humor, propelling his large body through endless physical contortions in a fruitless effort for laughs. But while the actor has proved his comic skills in previous projects, he’s completely adrift here. He also has to bear a large part of the blame since he co-wrote the screenplay. As for credited director Andy Fickman (Parental Guidance), he apparently went AWOL.
For obvious reasons, the film was not screened in advance for the press, and the sparse audience at a Thursday night theater showing emitted nary a chuckle. In this case, what happened in Vegas should surely have stayed in Vegas.
Production: Happy Madison/Hey Eddie/Broken Road
Cast: Kevin James, Raini Rodriguez, Neal McDonough, Shirley Knight, Eduardo Verastegui, Daniella Alonso, David Hennie
Director: Andy Fickman
Screenwriters: Kevin James, Nick Bakay
Producers: Todd Garner, Kevin James, Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo
Executive producers: Marty P. Ewing, Ben Waisbren, Jeff Sussman
Director of photography: Dean Semler
Production designer: Perry Andelin Blake
Editor: Scott Hill
Costume designer: Genevieve Tyrell
Composer: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Casting: Marcia Ross
Rated PG, 94 min.
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