Monday, February 2, 2009

Paul Blart: Mall Cop and the Soul of Kevin James

It's common knowledge that January through March is barren period at the movies, which is why Paul Blart: Mall Cop is now sniffing $100 million at the box office. Put that movie on the summer or holiday schedule, and it's getting ignored like the acne-ridden fat kid at prom.

On Saturday, the girlfriend and I made our way to the multiplex. I had gotten two movie passes and she had an expressed enthusiasm in seeing it: She loves stupid comedy and she loves Kevin James, so it made sense. (God help us if she wanted to see Bride Wars.) Plus, we had seen a batch of intense movies, including Revolutionary Road, Gran Torino, and the butt-numbing, faux prestige hooey of Benjamin Button.

We needed a laugh.

The movie is what you expect: 87 minutes of crowd-pleasing stupidity based on physical comedy and broad humor. But James makes the movie. Yes, he make his living as a big guy who's agile, but he never embarrases himself the way Farley did. There's a sweetness to him, a thoughtfulness that transcends the movie, that makes you root for the oafish Blart as he saves his mall from a band of tattooed, skateboarding terrorists. God only knows how awful the movie is if he's not in it.

As I watched the movie, something became apparent. Kevin James could be the 21st century answer to John Candy--a likeable, funny actor who's never given the credit he deserves because his resume features sub-par work. If you watch Hitch or even The King of Queens (James's first-rate 1998-2007 sitcom), his comedy is based on fatty falling down. It's based on personality.

And, as Jules Winfield said in Pulp Fiction, personality goes a long way.

(My apologies for the Lester Bangs-like blog title and the too-thoughtful analysis of Blart, which made me sound like the girl over-analyzing Around the World in 80 Days in Tristram Shandy. It's been a long day.)