A semi-comprehensive guide to the 23 times that I gave Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 the middle-finger salute.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Fair Warning: there are minor spoilers, if you really care about this sort of thing with regards to Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 of all goddamn movies.
Nearly 30 seconds into this utterly atrocious and pointless sequel to the inexplicable sleeper hit of January 2009. That’s how long it takes for the first of these to occur, because I know you’re curious. Since Jayma Mays decided that she had better things to do than appear in a sequel to Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the film has to figure out how to write her character out of the series, since she married Paul in the closing credits of the last film. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2’s solution is to have her divorce Paul six days later through post because, as the film explicitly notes, she apparently “came to her senses”. Also there was apparently projectile vomiting.
It’s an incredibly cruel send-off, one that goes entirely against the paper-thin character she was given in the first terrible movie, and feels very much like spite from the film’s producer, star and co-writer Kevin James. Look, I realise that it probably hurts to be rejected by somebody who voluntarily served tours in two goddamn Smurfs movies, but this still feels like a mean-spirited and childish “FINE! I didn’t want to play with you anyway!” situation. Not to mention the fact that Paul’s prior wife was explicitly noted as only using him for a Green Card. This doesn’t paint a very good picture when it comes to your gender politics, friend.
About 20 seconds later, his mother is ran over by a milk truck and killed. You know, I was under the impression that family entertainment isn’t supposed to be incredibly mean-spirited, but I guess I was wrong on that front.
Paul Blart’s daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) has just found out that her long shot application submission to UCLA has just been approved, at the same time that Paul has been sent an invitation to attend a National Security Guard Convention in Las Vegas. Paul tells his news first, drops some spiel about how he’s glad that she’ll always be around because every woman in his life – because Paul only has female acquaintances in his life for some reason – leaves him, and then asks what her news is. She opts to keep it hidden from him and I proudly raise my middle finger high.
Why do films keep doing this? Sure, the act of having a character purposefully choosing to withhold information from another is as old as time and is basically the backbone of a literal tonne or seven of great stories. But I’m not talking about those, I’m talking about instances like this which typically lead to drama of the laziest goddamn kind and a whole bunch of irritating Idiot Plots. How hard is it for a film to actually try, dammit? Then I remember that this is a film that barely 5 minutes ago dispatched two female characters by sudden divorce and random death respectively, and I realise that nobody involved in this production has ever heard of the concept of effort.
One of Blart’s friends (Loni Love) introduces herself as he’s in line to get checked into the hotel and I prepare for her to reveal herself as nothing more than a sassy black stereotype because that’s all black women are good for in comedies, I guess. I am proven right almost immediately. Yay, me.
Paul is acting quite the insufferable egotistical jerk whilst trying to check in. The first Paul Blart very much had the problem of not knowing whether Paul should be a lovable loser who’s a bit of a sad-sack because he realises the apparent futility of his job, or whether he’s a self-absorbed jerk who takes his job way too seriously. This film’s one scene in the original mall seems to lean towards the former, but then this scene and pretty much everything else in the film swings the pendulum decidedly the other way. It still wants you to feel sorry for and like him, though, which I can’t do because he’s played by Kevin James and I just do not like Kevin James. Hence why douchey Paul Blart earns another middle-finger.
The hotel’s general manager (Daniella Alonso) is now apologising to Paul and Maya for the mix-up with their room and makes the mistake of touching hands with Paul Blart. He interprets this as her having a thing for him and spends the next minute rebuffing her and explaining how he knows that she just has to be into him. Initially, it seems very much like Paul being the overblown egotistical jerk that the movie is oblivious to him being, but then it lingers on her looking at him from a distance as the scene ends and I proceed to raise the bird high and proud because I know exactly where this is going.
Blart sees Maya planning to head down to the pool in a swimsuit where, we are all led to believe, a boy that she is sweet on will be waiting for her. Paul proceeds to “You’re not going out like that” her and forces her to take an armoury’s worth of protective devices as precautions. I know exactly where this is going and I am sick to death of the “if only you silly women had just listened to and stuck by your man/father then none of this would have happened” sub-genre of films, so out comes the vitriolic finger, once again.
Paul spies one of his friends being loudly rejected by a woman at a bar and resolves to intervene and resolve the situation. It turns out that his friend, who is incredibly drunk, had propositioned her at the bar and is refusing to take “no” for an answer and just leave. Paul turns the situation around on the woman, claiming that she was asking to be approached and/or hit on by a guy because she was sat alone at a bar drinking, and insists that she should be thanking the guy for harassing her. And she agrees!
This movie, this family movie, really did just do a straight-faced sequence of Mansplaining. Middle finger goes straight back up.
The hotel general manager is back and, exactly as predicted, she’s falling for Paul Blart for reasons that are inexplicable even to herself, almost like she realises her horrible situation and the merciless gods from upon high who are forcing her to act this way. The bird gets another flight.
Can we all agree that relatively inexpensive CGI is the worst thing to happen to Happy Madison Productions in their history other than, you know, them still producing films? Paul Blart is now spending an inordinate and painfully long time fighting a CGI bird that pretty much never looks like it’s in the same plane of existence as Kevin James is. I respond by displaying my own bird, which is only a bird in the metaphorical and colloquial sense but is still more convincing as a real bird than the one on film ever will be.
There’s a Mexican security guard as one of the secondary characters. He’s the only one asleep during Blart’s big keynote speech because lazy Mexican stereotypes. This was supposedly funny to someone. I give a middle finger with an equivalent amount of effort.
Maya accidentally stumbles into the bad guys’ suite and is captured. “See! This wouldn’t have happened if she listened to her dad and went to his keynote instead of going out and partying! Father always knows best,” the film implicitly speaks. This middle finger comes out of reflex more than any actual disdain as, like I said earlier, I’m just completely sick of this subgenre by this point and can’t muster up anything more than a half-hearted acknowledgment of “yep, that’s crappy”.
Paul’s hypoglycaemia kicks in as he’s trying to threaten the villain (Neal McDonough, of all sodding people). I’ve always been annoyed by this aspect of these terrible, terrible goddamn films because they’re almost always played for “fat man fall down go boom” comedy instead of anything serious. You could use this aspect as a legitimate piece of drama, a stakes-raiser during the action and something that can severely set Paul back if it kicked in at the wrong time. Instead, and barring the one time that he fakes it at the end of the first movie, it’s almost always played as “fat man fall down go boom”.
And not even a funny or well-constructed “fat man fall down go boom”, either, which makes it even more insulting. I send that finger up into the air for wasted potential. Come on Kevin James, have some goddamn self-respect.
The hotel general manager is back again. You know, I’m starting to get the feeling that Kevin James is just using this series as an ego-stroking vanity project more than anything else. Not quite sure what’s giving that impression, though… I still despise everything about this plotline, raising that middle-finger in the air as if it will actually do a goddamn thing.
Paul Blart has just shoved a woman into a pool for pretty much no reason. Our hero, folks. Cue the middle finger.
The next five entries have been skipped as they constitute proper spoilers, I guess.
You know that sequence in the trailer where Paul hits on a horseback Sherriff? The one set to West Coast Rap because white guys doing things whilst Rap music plays is apparently just that goddamn funny? In the film itself, the scene is set to what basically amounts to Bro-Country. I would rather listen to the collective sound of a hundred Crazy Frogs being mutilated than listen to Bro-Country. This middle finger occurs due to abysmal musical standards.
The CGI horse joke sucked in the trailer and it still sucks now. I middle finger to represent all those hard-working visual effects artists whose craft is being continuously pissed upon every time a Happy Madison film uses this stuff.
The credits are now finally rolling. I’ve managed to survive an interminable and somehow-even-longer-feeling 94 minutes of terrible jokes, dreadful performances, direct-to-video-quality direction – which is actually an insult to direct-to-video films, in all honesty – a surprising amount of sexism, and just general goddamn misery. I feel like I have gained nothing except a completely wasted 94 minutes, and that fills me with anger. I am angrier at this than I am at the film I watched beforehand, which is one that tried to play a scene of forced rape between two men for legitimate comedy! This was a bad, bad, bad film with no redeeming qualities that actively wasted my time.
So I do the only thing that is fitting in this situation. I stand up, I proudly give Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 the middle finger salute, let it hang there for a few seconds, then I gather my things and leave the cinema screen.