Die-hard Kevin James fans will get additional mileage from it, but Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is a pretty easy pass for everyone else.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 picks up with New Jersey mall security officer Paul Blart (Kevin James), whose life hasn’t exactly changed for the better since his Black Friday heist-thwarting deeds six years ago. His wife Amy (Jayma Mays) dumped him after a week of marriage, while his mother (Shirley Knight) has died, leaving him to live alone with his daughter, Maya (Raini Rodriguez). All the same, when the Blarts take a trip to Las Vegas for a mall security convention, Paul goes with the expectation that he will be better recognized for his undying commitment to his chosen profession.
However, the Blarts’ “holiday” gets cut short when it turns out a gang of professional thieves – led by a fellow named Vincent (Neal McDonough) – have selected The Wynn (where Paul and Maya are staying) as the target for their next operation. Can Paul and his fellow under-appreciated mall cops rally together and save the day?
The first Paul Blart was a significant commercial success when it released in 2009 (it grossed $183 million worldwide on a $26 million budget), which makes it odd that the sequel has taken over six years to reach theaters. There still ought to be an audience willing to turn-out for more of this particular Kevin James character, seeing as the Paul Blart franchise is the rare Hollywood property that provides inoffensive dumb laughs in a family-friendly action/comedy package – without also sneaking in any lewder adult jokes or raunchy humor (as family movies often do).
That being said, the Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 script written by James and Nick Bakay (who also penned the original film) is about as lackluster as most people are probably expecting it to be. The main narrative thread for Mall Cop 2 is a father-daughter story about Paul and Maya (who’s been accepted to UCLA), but even that simple plot winds up half-baked and frequently pushed aside, to make room for more of James’ scenery-chewing comical antics. There are a handle of supporting story threads and running jokes woven into the proceedings too (including a romantic subplot for Maya), but they get so little development that most of them fail to even clear the low bar that Mall Cop 2 is ultimately aiming for.
James’ camera-mugging and pratfalls are the main attraction in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, so director Andy Fickman (Race to Witch Mountain, Parental Guidance) knows better than to focus the camera on much else. As a result, Mall Cop 2 does offer a handful of brainless laughs – the amount depends on how much you enjoy James’ comedy in general. Still, most of the movie’s action/comedy sequences are handled with as much care and precision as your average TV commercial. It’s too bad, really, since a number of the gags have promise, while the Las Vegas setting could’ve been put to better use when it comes to staging the various comedy set pieces – but, of course, that would’ve required more than a minimal effort on the part of the filmmakers.
Paul Blart remains a fairly static character throughout Mall Cop 2‘s running time, which means James doesn’t have much more to do than a retread on his shenanigans in the first movie (whether James’ shtick comes off more/less strained here is up for debate). Mall Cop 2 also suffers from a common Hollywood comedy ailment – where the movie often shifts clunkily from cheering on James’ bumbling protagonist to mocking his buffoonery. The moments of sentiment in the film (involving Paul and Maya) come off as all the less sincere and more awkwardly shoe-horned in for it, but Raini Rodriguez makes the best of what little she’s given to work with.
Neal McDonough (Red 2) plays a fairly ho-hum straight-man/antagonist for most of Mall Cop 2, though he ends up getting perhaps the biggest laugh of the sequel (during a scene with James). The remainder of the cast is stuck playing stock types, including: David Henrie (Wizards of Waverly Place), playing the love interest for Maya; Eduardo Verástegui (Bella) as the security officer rival to Paul; and cast members like Loni Love (Kickin’ It) and Gary Valentine (James’ former King of Queens costar) as the comical stereotypes of real-life mall cops. At least Daniella Alonso (Revolution) gets a laugh or two as The Wynn’s manager, Divina, who’s horrified to learn that she may actually be quite attracted to Paul.
A sequel to Paul Blart: Mall Cop (or any movie released by Happy Madison productions nowadays) naturally carries low expectations with it, but Mall Cop 2 only just meets its quota for guilty laughs. Die-hard Kevin James fans will get additional mileage from it, but Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is a pretty easy pass for everyone else.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 94 minutes long and is Rated PG for some violence.
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