Some things are so inherently funny they transcend time, language, and culture. Slipping on a banana peel. A cream pie in the face. And now we must add to the list Kevin James in a uniform riding a Segway in a mall. The vision of the large man in the crisp white shirt with a shiny badge primly rolling along past Brookstone and Orange Julius is funny even if you’ve never seen a Segway — or a mall. And James, who co-wrote, endows the title character with such piercing sweetness that even his geeky pretensions are endearing. “Fun fact!” he likes to say before spouting off some arcane fact from science or history. And when he tries to persuade a pretty girl at a kiosk that there is a raging controversy about whether security personnel at the mall will be referred to as “officers,” we can’t help hoping that it is resolved in his favor.
Paul Blart (Kevin James, with not just Segway and badge but mustache and Hello Kitty band-aid) wants very much to be a state trouper but he keeps failing the program. He has the heart of a lion and is even pretty good on the obstacle course. But his hypoglycemia hits him at the wrong moments, causing him to pass out. And so he is still working at the mall and trying to persuade himself and those around him that it is a job with some actual authority. Without a weapon or the ability to cite or arrest anyone, he does not get very far.
He is dearly loved by his mother (the wonderful Shirley Knight) and daughter (Raini Rodriguez), who encourage him to use perfectmatch.com to find a date. But there is a sweet young woman named Amy in a synthetic wig at the hair weave kiosk (Jayma Mays) who somehow gives him a reason to try to reach out. And then the bad guys arrive, and it’s time for “Die Hard” on laughing gas.
Despite its origins as a Happy Madison production (Adam Sandler’s company), this film avoids most crude humor and all references to 80’s pop culture. It drags a bit on its way to the reindeer-named bad guys but once they arrive, zooming through the mall on skateboards and dirt bikes, with only security guard — I mean security officer — Blart and his Segway plus whatever he can find Sharper Image and the sporting goods store, it kicks into gear. Blart’s got you covered.