2009 Certificate: pg

Synopsis

Kevin James plays the frustrated wannabe cop-turned-tubby security guard who "protects and serves" at an out-of-town New Jersey shopping mall. Time is spent separating warring women shoppers and flagging down pensioners on motorised wheelchairs... until a ruthless band of criminals embarks on a retail smash'n'grab. A finely-honed slapstick routine from the likeable James and a rich stock of decent gags ensure this engaging comedy is anything but bargain basement.

Director

  • Steve Carr

Cast

  • Kevin James

  • Jayma Mays

  • Keir O'Donnell

  • Peter Gerety

Review

Shopping centre security guards. You know the type. Sad, wannabe cops in a pseudo police uniform who didn't make it through the entry exam.

Paul Blart, a man cursed with a name that sounds like someone throwing up and hypoglycaemic to boot, is typical of the bumbling species.

Officious and pompous, he's blissfully oblivious of the contempt held for him as he sails the aisles on his personal transporter, a sort of pogo stick with wheels.

However, he's basically a good guy. Just misunderstood. He works it maybe a bit too hard but is just trying to do his job to the best of his (limited) abilities.

All this changes when the mall is taken over by a gang of ruthless robbers, a crew of BMX and skateboard-riding rotters who hold a group of shop-workers, including Paul's unrequited love Amy (Mays) hostage. Think Die Hard without anyone getting shot in the head.

It's difficult to see how this very capable comedy should come from a stable that includes both Adam Sandler (producer) and Steve Carr, the director behind the lame Daddy Day Care and Dr Doolittle 2.

Yet it's a supremely entertaining affair, riffing on the familiar theme of the incompetent, lovable twit coming out on top yet being genuinely funny enough to survive a welter of almost contractually-obliged comedy clichés.

James, who co-wrote the script, keeps Paul's inanely portentuous dialogue fizzing with ludicrous homilies - "the mind is the only weapon that doesn't need a holster" - and he's no slouch in the slapstick stakes as his fat mall cop flattens a splendidly OTT posse of lean, mean freestylers.

Mays, star of Ugly Betty, lends Amy an agreeable degree of kookiness while Stephen Rannazzisi, once you've overcome his name, is just fine as the oily pen salesman and duplicitous rival for Amy's affections.

If it's laugh-a-minute retail therapy you're after, then there's more than enough to satisfy even the most demanding comedy consumer.

Tim Evans