Every once in a while, a movie comes along that makes me feel completely alienated from the tastes of the general American moviegoing public. 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' is one of those movies. It's $150 million box office success took most of the industry by surprise, including me. It's not that it's such a terrible film -- it's just a mediocre one. An amusing if simplistic concept, threadbare script, cliched characters, and uninspired direction... hardly the stuff a blockbuster is made up. But go figure -- audiences loved it.
Kevin James stars as mild-mannered mall cop Paul Blart. He's got "... a heart that won't quit, a stomach that won't stop gurgling and a self-sworn oath to protect his turf!" Secretly he has always had huge dreams of becoming a State Trooper, but lacking the courage to follow his heart, he rides around the local mall as a security guard. What's funny about Blart, the movie and James try to tell us, is that with his closely cropped moustache, personal transporter, and gung-ho attitude, only he seems to take his job seriously. Then the drama, and Paul is tested -- a team of thugs raids the malls and takes hostages. So what if Blart is untrained, unarmed and a "really large target?" He's gonna have to finally become the real cop of his dreams if he's gonna save the day.
I must admit that I like these simple underdog stories, about an ordinary man who finds his greatness even if its in the most mundane of activities. There is an underlying sweetness to the Blart character, whose simple ways and fundamental decency make us immediately root for him. Unfortunately, the filmmakers have surrounded this lovable loser with such an uninspired visual world, dull characters and rote script that, quite frankly, he deserves better.
Was I wrong to wish for a bit more whimsy? Visual flights of fancy? Subtle character shadings to Blart beyond the obvious? James has yet to stray far on the big-screen from the TV persona that made him famous (he's been playing a variant of Blart for years on "The King of Queens" and in movies like the dreadful 'I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry'), and he is a good fit for Blart. Too bad there's no real meat here for him to chew on. And though I enjoyed a few of the small touches (his family could have been comedy gold), the denizens of the local mall are entirely forgettable, as is the team of villains.
But as is most important for any comedy, did I laugh during 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop?" Not really. I smiled a couple of times, and the initial scenes with James are amusing because they seem fresh. Then it all quickly grows stale and conventional, and the movie has no gas. 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' would probably never have been a great movie, but did it have to be so pedestrian? For a flick about an average guy who discovers his greatness, the end result is rather ironic. 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' a movie that doesn't seem to understand its own moral lesson -- you can't just dream, you gotta aspire.
Sony presents 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 video (1.85:1). Though the film isn't exactly a visual extravaganza, I was still expecting a bit more out of this one.
The transfer has an overtweaked quality, which just highlights the blandness of the source even more. Blacks are very good, but contrast runs hot, which gives a digital appearance to the image. Colors aren't as vibrant as the average new release, with a decently-saturated palette but some washed-our hues and icky fleshtones. Depth is OK, but sometimes flat, and the sporadic softness of photography doesn't help. Detail is pretty good, but not great. The only top-tier aspect of the presentation is the encode, which is as clean as always from Sony. 'Paul Blart' looks passable, nothing more.
'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' gets the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround treatment (48kHz/24-bit), not that the movie offers much of a sonic workout.
This is standard-issue, sorta-cheap comedy soundtrack. fare. Surrounds are employed for the occasional discrete effect and bleed of the generic score, but don't truly envelop. Dynamic range feels fairly spacious, with low bass that supports the action perfectly well, if unspectacularly. Dialogue is pretty well recorded and clear, however bad the dialogue. No complaints for 'Paul Blart,' but you'll be hard-pressed to add this to your demo disc pile.
The Blu-ray of 'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' comes with a pretty healthy selection of supplements, which is none too surprising given the film's box office success. All of the DVD extras are here, and the quality is high, with everything presented in 1080 video.
'Paul Blart: Mall Cop' is a movie whose success I just don't understand. It's a banal, non-descript comedy that still somehow managed to gross over $150 million at the box office. This Blu-ray is likewise -- serviceable with decent video, audio and extras, but nothing special. Worth a rental I guess, but only diehard Kevin James fans need apply for a purchase.