Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 returns Kevin James to the role of the titular mild mannered, Segway-riding, mustache-clad, mall security guard. Six years ago, Blart stopped a heist and the kidnapping of his daughter by taking down a gang of criminals in the West Orange Pavilion Mall. This time around, he’s once again forced to dispatch of an “elite” group of criminals while saving his daughter… but in Las Vegas!
Beginning with some archival footage from the last installment, Blart quickly dispatches of the Jayma Mays love-interest-turned-wife from Paul Blart by explaining that they divorced six days later. Then, his loving mother gets hit by a milk truck. These developments both leave Blart crying as he quickly shuffles away to his bedroom, running past his dutifully supportive young daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez). He’s such a helpless sad sack that when Maya gets accepted to UCLA, she’s afraid to break the news to her dad. On the other hand, when Blart receives an invite to the annual security officer’s convention in Las Vegas, he and his daughter are swiftly off to enjoy the amenities.
Despite its location, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 might be the least Vegas-y Las Vegas movie ever, and it’s not simply because of the film’s PG rating. There is a courtesy scene at a Cirque du Soleil show (has this been funny since Knocked Up in 2007?) in which Blart spins around on a wire taking out various performers, and another scene where Blart briefly gambles on a game of craps only to lose all his money. However, the iconic strip, Vegas’ distinctive architecture as well as the city’s seedier elements are relegated to the backdrop for a simplified version of the Paul Blart plot.
Actually, “plot” might be giving this story too much credit. Sure, things happen, but there’s rarely any tangible motivation behind the characters’ actions. After one of Blart’s admirers informs him that he might be delivering the keynote address at the security convention, she punches him in the throat and walks away. When Blart can’t find his daughter and she doesn’t pick up his first phone call, he immediately concludes she’s been abducted (that won’t actually happen until later in the movie). At least 50% of Blart’s problems would be solved by learning how to text with the same cell phone on which he’s constantly making calls.
Shoved in between the riveting drama over whether or not Paul will get to make the big speech is an inexplicable heist movie subplot. Neal McDonough stars as Vincent, the leader of an anonymous crime syndicate intent on stealing prized art from one of the casinos. Instead of giving two or three establishing scenes to Vincent and his nameless crew, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 spends a handful of scenes detailing the group’s plan. When D.B. Woodside’s personality-less character Robinson informs Vincent that a change in security protocol means the thieves will have to alter their plans, it becomes clear that this movie’s writing isn’t in service of entertainment. The purpose here is utility. The plot fills space and can string together two comedic set pieces, but it’s completely uninteresting on its own.
Few moments feel as ridiculously botched as when Blart’s daughter leaves a party in one room of the presidential suite, only to stumble into the art thieves mid-plan in another room of the suite. By this point, the film hasn’t characterized the criminals well enough to make it clear that they’re even dangerous. Furthermore, even though the heist crew appears professional, it takes one of the henchmen a few minutes to just walk across the hall, after Maya has scurried away, and break down the bathroom door.
The ensuing battle between Blart and Vincent’s henchmen is also empty of any tension because there’s nothing at stake. These criminals are stealing art we didn’t know existed and threatening violence they seem incapable of showing. The film’s shootout scenes, which have Blart riding on a souped-up Segway, are only funny if you enjoy seeing nameless bad guys get repeatedly blown back into swimming pools by bean bag guns.
The only somewhat redeeming quality Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 has to offer is Kevin James’ ability as a comedic performer. Although his job consists largely of mugging for the camera and committing to pratfalls, James is gifted at selling the physical humor of the role. The part mostly asks him to drop nuance in favor of unnaturally big reactions, and James gives it everything he has. But Paul Blart isn’t a character, or even a caricature. He’s a half-remembered punchline to a six-year-old joke.
There are, surprisingly, no shots to the groin in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. Blart does fall down seven times though, and outside of fight scenes he gets hit or is hit by something five times (once, he’s hit by a car, and then falls down). He also cries four times and gets attacked by two different animals. At first, the abuse seems geared towards providing a moment of enjoyable slapstick, but by the end of the movie, it feels more and more like masochism. Maybe Kevin James, who is a co-writer on the Paul Blart franchise, can only find pleasure from these painful movie experiences. Or maybe his intention was just to make us suffer through Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with him?
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is a boring, lifeless, lazily written movie with Kevin James' cheap, slapstick gags repeated ad nauseam.