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      Paul Blart: Mall Cop Review

      Paul Blart: Mall Cop poster

      Paul Blart: Mall Cop

      Glenn Whipp, Chicago Tribune

      "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" is as sticky and gooey as a Cinnabon cinnamon roll, a snack the movie's title character has no doubt sampled once or twice over the years during his shifts. A high-concept smash-up of "Die Hard" and "Kung-Fu Panda," "Blart" gives sitcom star Kevin James a showcase for broad-comedy pratfalls, providing him 87 minutes to plop, flop and crash into things.

      The targeted tween audience will lap up James' antics, but for the rest of us, "Blart" is just empty calories. The genial James has an appealing Everyman quality, but the movie, written by James and his "King of Queens" writing partner Nick Bakay and directed by journeyman Steve Carr ("Daddy Day Care"), too often settles for easy, lazy jokes, most of which revolve around either food or running into stuff.

      Blart, who lives in New Jersey with his mother (Shirley Knight) and daughter (Raini Rodriguez), covers the loneliness of his existence by slathering peanut butter on his nightly slice of pie. "Peanut butter ... it fills the cracks of the heart," Blart says between bites.

      Blart gains a measure of fulfillment from his job at a West Orange mall, where he scoots nimbly around in a Segway, going about his sworn duty to "detect, deter, observe and report." That he has no real authority is an idea the filmmakers try to exploit, but the best scenario they can imagine involves Blart wrestling a heavyset woman in a lingerie store.

      The movie's main action involves Black Friday, an elaborate robbery scheme, a hostage scenario, criminals played by actual X-Game athletes, and a shot at redemption for our hypoglycemic hero. There's also a love story between Blart and a doe-eyed kiosk saleswoman (Jayma Mays), a good egg who intuits that somewhere beneath the mall cop's doughy exterior beats the heart of a champion.

      Similarly, underneath the cartoonish mall mayhem and silly slapstick lies a comedy that aspires to be the sort of gentle crowd-pleaser John Hughes used to make. Trouble is, the filmmakers are unwilling to sacrifice any of James' rolling-and-tumbling time to beef up Blart's history or his relationship with his daughter. Even a minimal adjustment could have made the movie's late-in-the-game, heartstrings-tugging peril a little more palatable.

      Then again, maybe we should be thankful for the tone as is. The movie's few stabs at emotion involve music cues using Barry Manilow's "Weekend in New England" and Survivor's "I Can't Hold Back." The Manilow song might - repeat, might - be a stab at irony, but it should be noted that Adam Sandler, a longtime advocate of the simple pleasures of Styx, mentored James and produced "Blart."

      Don't think he doesn't own a copy of "Survivor - Greatest Hits."

      MPAA rating: PG (for some violence, mild crude and suggestive humor and language).

      Running time: 1:27.

      Starring: Kevin James (Paul Blart); Jayma Mays (Amy); Shirley Knight (Mom); Raini Rodriguez (Maya); Keir O'Donnell (Veck).

      Directed by Steve Carr; written by Kevin James and Nick Bakay; photographed by Russ T. Alsobrook; edited by Jeff Freeman; production design by Perry Andelin Blake; music by Waddy Wachtel; produced by Adam Sandler, Jack Giarraputo, Todd Garner, James and Barry Bernardi. A Columbia Pictures release.

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