Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Posted by Joel Copling on July 26, 2015

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" is akin to turning over a stone and revealing something hideous and slimy. It is a subhumanoid carcass, a steaming pile of worthless parts congealed into an infuriating whole that operates by actively insulting everyone in its path--the actors onscreen, the characters they play, the crew who worked on it, and most importantly, the audience suffering it. And I use "suffering" in a serious light, because that is the only way to describe what is happening here. The effect can kindly be described as depression settling within 15 minutes of the opening credits, followed by the intense sensation of one's IQ points dropping, then a numb disbelief that there were people who came together and made this film because they thought it was a good idea.

And funny thing is, this wasn't so when it came to the 2009 original, which was a perfectly harmless: a security guard sees that his mall is in danger and uses unexpected skill to save the hostages. It wasn't exactly a good movie, mostly because on the merits of a slapstick comedy it was dreadful. But it was fun enough as a riff on "Die Hard" for the kiddie crowd. The overall impact was minor, but that only meant that it was the kind of instantly forgettable affair that this film, its successor, is not, in all the ways that make its viewers quite possibly feel terrified, alone, and dead inside. It's truly that awful, showcasing filmmaking so lazy that one almost wishes infamous filmmaking duo Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (they of 2007's "Epic Movie" and 2008's "Disaster Movie") would have signed on to give it a leg up. Yeah.

Said security guard is Paul Blart (Kevin James, who also co-wrote a screenplay with Nick Bakay that I highly doubt ever truly existed), with whom we pick up six years after the incident at Paul's own West Orange Pavilion Mall. His marriage to Amy, played in the first film by the irresistibly adorable Jayma Mays and seen here in archival footage, ended after only six days due to "some regrets." In other words, this movie is callously spitting on even the relatively small amount of good will built up by its predecessor. It casts an unexpectedly negative light on Amy. Of course, the rest of the movie then pretty much forces the viewer to side with Amy, so that should prove how much contempt this movie has, apparently even for itself.

The other example is perhaps the film's worst joke (although, no, the fact that its "worst joke" comes before the ten-minute mark is not the breath of fresh air it should be, considering there are no good jokes anywhere): Paul's mother has died. You're probably wondering what the punchline is. Well, apparently it is its own punchline, which the movie provides no fewer than three times before the end credits blessedly come. She was hit by a milk truck, and the entire scene is played as absurd and over-the-top; perhaps the problem is that the tone of the attempted "drama" is played at the same pitch as all the lame-brained comedy, nullifying both elements in the process.

Take the subplot involving Paul's daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez), who desperately wants to attend UCLA against her father's wishes for her stay at a local college. Instead of taking the honest approach and telling him the truth about her good news, Maya opts to keep him in the dark. Paul's been invited to give the keynote address at a security officers' convention in Las Vegas and, through the idiotic machinations of that stupid script, discovers that he's been replaced by another policeman (played by Nicholas Turturro) instead. In any normal movie, this is fodder for the gently moralizing treatment of light familial drama. Here it's fodder for the flamboyant poses of a rancid action comedy premised on something that, over time, becomes rather worrisome.

It's an idea borne in a scene set at the exhibition part of the convention (where we are also introduced to Chekhov's Potato Gun): that security guards should be afforded lethal weapons. Forget the unfortunate political timing here; the scene exists to be brought up again later, when Paul faces his nemesis and realizes that he has not already killed almost all of them. That's right: This film bemoans its own lack of an enormous body count. When there are instances of physical combat, director Andy Fickman takes on a slo-mo approach that focuses entirely on brutality. A little old woman is punched in the stomach (by Paul, no less). An elderly man thrown to the ground. One of the villain's henchmen is Tased no less than six times in a single sequence. It's remarkably mean-spirited.

I've made it this far without mentioning the central narrative thread of this thing, but I guess I actually can't write a review that focuses on everything else. Out of all the rancid elements, this is the least injurious, if only because it's so thin and predictable. Art thieves, led by Vincent (Neal McDonough, who sports distractingly different-colored eyes) and Robinson (DB Woodside), plot to steal all the paintings in the Wynn's Hotel at which the convention is being held (Steve Wynn makes an inexplicable, wordless appearance near the end, and apparently this is the first time he's ever allowed a commercial film to be shot in the structure).

The action scenes are absurd, such as the one that returns the potato gun to the foreground or a showdown between Vincent's goons and four old friends of Paul's (one of them wearing a barber's gown). Fickman and cinematographer Dean Semler fudge other aspects, too, such as even common composition and framing (not to mention some of the worst green-screen work you'll ever witness), not helped by the graceless lump that is Scott Hill's editorial imprecision. The actors all look as if they want to be anywhere else than onscreen, and that also includes the likes of two bits of forced romantic tension (Maya with hotel employee Lane, played by David Henrie, and Paul with hotel general manager Divina, played by Daniella Alonso as a person who can't resist a bit of wishful arrogance). "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" is enough to put the viewers in a sort of mantra of repeated requests to stop the torture, and that's before the plot proper even starts.

Film Information

Kevin James (Paul Blart), Raini Rodriguez (Maya), Eduardo Verastegui (Eduardo Furtillo), Daniella Alonso (Divina), Neal McDonough (Vincent), David Henrie (Lane), D.B. Woodside (Robinson), Nicholas Turturro (Nick Manero).

Directed by Andy Fickman and written by Kevin James and Nick Bakay.

Rated PG (violence).

94 minutes.

Released on April 17, 2015.