A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that since this slapstick comedy is set in a mall, it features a tremendous amount of consumer/product integration. As a result, almost every scene includes a real mall store or restaurant. There are lots of humorous pratfalls -- but the criminals also threaten to kill people and use guns, and there are a few explosions. Several jokes target the obese (including the main character). The language is mostly confined to insults (though there's at least one use of "s--t," as well as a couple uses of "hell," "ass," and "oh my God"), and the sexuality is limited to flirting, a kiss ... and an extended scene set in Victoria's Secret.
What's the story?
Kevin James stars as Paul Blart, a Segway-mounted security guard at New Jersey's West Orange Pavilion Mall. Having repeatedly dropped out of the New Jersey State Troopers' academy test (low blood sugar makes him pass out without any notice), lonely single dad Paul takes his job too seriously and lives with his mom and daughter -- and he hasn't had a date in so long that they set up an online profile for him. After meeting lovely new kiosk owner Amy (Jayma Mays), Paul thinks she could be the one to look past his schlubby exterior to the sweet, courageous man inside. To prove himself to her, he stays in the mall to try and save her and a group of other hostages captured by a group of young criminals on the hunt for a huge identity-theft score.
Is it any good?
At first PAUL BLART: MALL COP just seems like another broad, brainless Adam Sandler-produced comedy aimed at teen and tween boys. But as the plot thickens, James' teddy-bear of a protagonist actually begins to grow on the audience. Despite the many fat jokes (which are thankfully not aimed at Raini Rodriguez, the cute, chubby actress who plays Blart's daughter Maya), there's none of the raunch that's defined Sandler's signature brand of humor. Blart doesn't make apologies for who he is -- a food-loving, mustachioed, unfashionable man who loves his job and his mother and daughter and would risk his life to save any innocent mall shopper.
The physical comedy is surprisingly well executed, with James pratfalling with the ease and grace of Chevy Chase or Buster Keaton. Mays is like the second coming of Anna Faris, and the acrobatic, skateboarding crew of criminals put on an entertaining cat-and-mouse chase around the mall. The mall, it should be noted, deserves its own credit, since the movie prominently plugs many a store -- particularly an extended scene in Victoria's Secret. So, yes, this is a broad, silly comedy filled with consumer brands -- but it also has, embodied in its brave buffoon of Paul Blart, heart.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether the movie's mall setting makes its brand/product placement more or less obvious. Are all of the stores and brands distracting, or are they just part of the scenery? Do you think that has more or less impact than other kinds of product placement?
Families can also discuss the appeal of "underdog" heroes. What makes Paul an underdog? How does he overcome the odds?
The movie makes several references to his weight, as well as featuring sight gags about obese women. Is it OK to poke fun at some groups but not others? Why or why not?
- In theaters: January 16, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: May 19, 2009
- Cast: Jayma Mays, Keir O'Donnell, Kevin James
- Director: Steve Carr
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some violence, mild crude and suggestive humor, and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.