Six years after 2009’s “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” shocked everyone by grossing $146 million, star and co-writer Kevin James returns as the bumbling title character in a tired sequel that has fewer laughs than most horror films. Bless his heart, James gives it his all, and the concept of a mall cop taking on deadly casino art thieves is solid. The problem is the execution, which is choppy, forced, and uninspired.
The happy place we left Officer Blart in 2009 was not meant to be. His wife soon left him. His mother died. His daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) is now 18 and preparing to leave the nest. Blart still lives in his own sheltered and childish world as a security-obsessed mall cop. Big heart. Small brain. A security convention sends him to Sin City where Blart will wage a war of witlessness against Vincent (Neal McDonough), a ruthless art thief.
All the action takes place within the confined spaces of the Wynn Casino, an idea that could have worked. Imagine a “Die Hard” scenario where Lou Costello has to stop a sociopathic Danny Ocean. That was the basic premise of the original, except it was set in a mall. And let’s face it, that movie also wasn’t very good.
America desperately needs another funny, relatable big-hearted, imperfect everyman-hero like a John Candy or Chevy Chase. James certainly has the talent to fill that role. The Paul Blart character is simply too obnoxious, selfish and clueless. The “Blart” sequel is like watching this scene between John Candy and Macauley Culkin for 90 full minutes. The title character is affected and contrived, and so are the comedic situations.
For a Paul Blart-type character to work, you have to place him in the real world, and have him bounce off of real people. That’s the joy of watching Chaplin, Costello, Clouseau. The world plays straight man. Everyone in “Blart” is over-the-top, including the love interest. Even Vincent, who is given a brown and blue eye for no reason, sees nothing out of the ordinary about his nemesis.
The kids might enjoy a second round of “Blart.” There’s plenty of slapstick. Like the best overweight comedians, James is surprisingly agile for a big man. Better yet, there is no bad language or crude humor. Not even a fart joke. “Blart” is innocent to a point where it is actually shocking, which is something else America could use more of.
The problem is that I only laughed twice.
John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC