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Movie Review

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Segway-ing into silliness

Kevin James is the co-writer and star of ''Paul Blart: Mall Cop.'' Kevin James is the co-writer and star of ''Paul Blart: Mall Cop.'' (Richard cartwright)
By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / January 16, 2009
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The prediction in "WALL-E" of a human race turned to spineless dumplings comes depressingly true in "Paul Blart: Mall Cop." As played by Kevin James, Paul doesn't appear to have any idea what his body can do or can't. He seems much more competent at work riding a Segway personal transport thingamajig than he does walking on his own two feet.

For the machine, James has devised some nice physical choreography. Stuffed in a snug security guard's uniform, his tubby body becomes a vision of weightlessness aboard the Segway, pirouetting around corners and glissading down hallways. But the pleasures of such sights are momentary since the movie, set at a New Jersey shopping center (but filmed at the Burlington Mall), turns from live-action Pixar to a particularly inept Looney Toon.

Paul pities himself, overeats, lives with his mother (Shirley Knight) and daughter (Raini Rodriguez), and desperately wants to date the bland girl (Jayma Mays) who runs the wig cart outside Zales. When acrobatic skate-thugs descend on the mall after hours and take hostages, Paul gets to play the hero. James co-wrote the movie (Steve Carr has barely directed it), and you can see how someone very bored and with a little showbiz clout might have an idea to cross "Marty" with "Die Hard."

But you also have to wonder whether the nacho-eating contests with a man twice his girth were James's idea or why he thought a scene with him stuck in an air vent with a growling stomach would bring down the house. (Actually, the night I watched this movie that scene did bring down the house.)

Elsewhere, hypoglycemia, hot sauce, Bobby Cannavale as a SWAT commander, and a climax at the Rainforest Café are put to execrable comic ends. The film itself, meanwhile, looks like something stubbed out in an ashtray. It's unlikely that even WALL-E could bring himself to scoop up this movie and leave it on his post-apocalyptic junk heap.

PAUL BLART: MALL COP

Directed by: Steve Carr

Written by: Kevin James and Nick Bakay

Starring: James, Jayma Mays, Raini Rodriguez, Shirley Knight, and Bobby Cannavale

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 88 minutes

Rated: PG (Some violence, mild crude and suggestive humor, and language)

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