Paul Blart 2 review: so mordantly witless that it has the quality of a bleak art-house tragedy

This film adds to the looming sense that mainstream US cinema comedy is deep in a Dark Age

Film Title: Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Director: Andy Fickman

Starring: Kevin James, Molly Shannon, Neal McDonough, Daniella Alonso, David Henrie, Raini Rodriguez

Genre: Comedy

Running Time: 93 min

Fri, Apr 10, 2015, 19:00

   

No sane consumer will expect too much from a film called Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. If he or she emerges from the cinema with thumbs still opposable and frontal lobes intact then it should be accounted a small victory.

We’ll give it that. Otherwise, the second film in the private-security comedy cycle lives down to all lowered expectations. If the film-makers had deliberately set out to squander the sliver of good will established by the first film - which really wasn’t that bad - they could hardly have produced something more consistently unappealing.

Take the stunningly off-message beginning. Eager to reset Blart’s life to zero, the film swiftly divorces the security guard and - in the most tonally inappropriate scene you’ll encounter this year - drives a milk van over his unfortunate mother. Thus lowered, poor old Paul, his heroism in part one largely forgotten, heads off for a conference in Las Vegas. Once ensconced, he eats anything slovenly enough to evade his pudgy grasp while stereotypically slick gangsters plot to steal the city’s artworks.

It’s not just that Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 fails to be funny. The film is so mordantly witless that it takes on the quality of a bleak art-house tragedy. Michael Haneke would struggle to construct a character so worthlessly lost as that played by Kevin James. He exhibits a possessive control over his daughter that borders on the pathological. He cannot escape the tininess of his professional ambitions. He seems perturbed that a young woman might object to the drunken advances of his even stupider friend.

In another context, James’s disgusting performance might stand as proof of cunning genius. Here, it just adds to the looming sense that mainstream US cinema comedy is deep in a Dark Age (see Hot Tub Time Machine 2 for further proof). Any sacking by Vandals would be welcomed. Not that you’d notice.