Saturday, 18 April 2015

Movie Review: Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015)

I’ve made fun of Jai Courtney serving as a human signpost that what he’s involved in will most likely be crap, but that’s small potatoes compared to some production companies out there that say the same thing. Namely, the production studio behind today’s outing: Happy Madison Productions, also known as Adam Sandler’s production company. Now, as much as many parts of me want to jump onto the anti-Sandler bandwagon, given how little regard I hold for films like That’s My Boy, the fact remains that his films took up a rather large portion of my childhood: Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, 50 First Dates, even Little Nicky are all on good standings with me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily call them out when they screw up, and they do so with surprising relish and on a colossal scale, but if my defense of Blended proves nothing else than it at least shows that I have some mercy in my heart for the man and his stable of friends after all this time. So, where does their latest offering land with me? This is Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.

The plot: After a series of rather unfortunate events befall him, Paul Blart (Kevin James) receives an invitation to a security guard convention in Las Vegas and takes his daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) with him. However, he finds himself on call again after discovering a plot by a group of thieves led by Vincent (Neal McDonough) to rob valuable art from the Wynn Resort.

As part of my usual preparation for the films I check out for reviews, I watched the first Paul Blart film. I could easily just write it off as a lame attempt at a Die Hard parody and leave it at that, but since that film showed no mercy in inflicting pain on me, I will respond in kind. Kevin James may be quite likeable and I’ve certainly enjoyed him way back when with The King Of Queens, but he plays one hell of a annoying, incompetent (when the plot requires him to be) and obsessive stalker that is saddled with painfully awkward and badly timed schtick that never once served to please and always served to annoy the ever-loving piss out of me. Aside from a nice old-school rock soundtrack, there isn’t a whole lot I can recommend unless you’re that big a fan of Die Hard that anything even remotely close to it is your thing. I bring this up because this is a pretty definite example of Sequel Rule #34; I’m guessing that since the first film was a Die Hard spoof, they should follow that series and have the sequel largely be the exact same thing as the original.

All of my gripes with the original are here in full force. First off, the jokes long out-stay their welcome: Either the jokes themselves are delivered with such dullness that a lot of them don’t even register, and at times come across more depressing than funny, or the few jokes that actually are funny are continued beyond the punchline and flip right back into being irritating again. The fact that a lot of these jokes revolve around the main character’s weight and rarely deviate from that only makes things worse. Secondly, there are quite a few jokes that are delivered through ADR. This is bad enough on its own, until you notice just how bad the audio mixing and editing here is; I’ve seen straight-to-DVD films with better consistency with their sound than this movie, something that extends even beyond the voice-over dialogue. To cut a potentially long rant short, a Wilhelm scream should never be as prominent in the mix as it is here. To round all this off, this is a gag-oriented film where the plot takes a back-seat to the comedy. Now, this isn’t always a bad thing, but it becomes increasingly so when the Vegas heist plotline and the small-time security guard plotline not only clash like dark and fluorescent colours, but also make the villains look so much more interesting than our lead that I wish this film was an Ocean’s Eleven spoof instead. Of course, had this film gone in that direction, it would have likely fizzled out considering how little story there is for this script to utilize. There’s one scene in The Garden Of Meditation which is not only baffling on various levels, but ultimately serves no purpose other than to confuse people and somehow be funny because of that confusion alone; how nice to see someone taking a page out of the Tim & Eric comedic playbook(!)

However, even with all that in mind, I can safely say that this isn’t as bad as the first film and for one simple reason: There are moments in this film that actually work on a comedic level, although I’m not entirely sure how intentional some of these were in their efficacy. When Blart rides a specialized vehicle that was to be unveiled at the security convention, it results in something so stupid looking and over-the-top goofy that I think I went into a fit of hysteria with how much I was laughing at it. What made that scene even weirder was that, from then on, the film seemed to pick up a bit. Between the fight scene with mall guards wielding various lamps to attack with, which features some decent choreography, and the literal crazy-off between Blart and Vincent, there is a surprising amount to like here. Sure, there’s still a lot of Blart’s overlong dialogue and sub-par action one-liners that I think were meant to make fun of them but they fail so badly that it’s hard to tell, and beyond that the plot never really picks up at any point and leaves quite a few plot threads hanging; but I’d be lying if I said that this film had absolutely nothing to offer.

All in all, this may not be as bad as the original but that’s not exactly the most difficult thing to accomplish in this case. It carries a lot of the same problems that that film had, like the weak plot progression and the horrible comedic timing, but it at least succeeds at having a handful of moments that are legitimately funny for one reason or another. In terms of Happy Madison’s pedigree, as annoying as this thing is, it would still rank pretty high among their recent efforts; I can only hope that this isn’t the best they have to offer this year, considering their interesting if highly derivative co-production Pixels is coming out later this year. It’s better than Unfinished Business, as this film at least has a pulse of some description, but while it has the same consistency with the jokes, Get Hard only just stays above this one on the list. It may have some decent elements to it, but I’m not going to pretend that they are anywhere near enough to save this thing; maybe wait for it to come on TV at some point, but otherwise this is a safe bet to skip.

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