QED

Fat men can fight too

Don’t let Paul Blart (Kevin James) fool you. He’s a portly, hyperglycaemic security guard, who can’t complete a physical. His chances of becoming a police officer look grim. He’s a single father living with his daughter/relationship adviser (Raini Rodriguez) and his motherly “mom.” He appears to live by Miss Piggy’s motto (“Never eat anything at one sitting that you can’t lift”). What’s more, his ex-wife, a former illegal, married him for the green card. But Mr. Blart isn’t a loser. He’s just lonely. “Safety never takes a holiday,” proclaims the mall cop, who takes his work way too seriously at times. (And don’t forget anal-retentive.)

Paul Blart’s mall is, in fact, a real mall, in Massachusetts, although the film is set in New Jersey. Some of the brand name shops, from The Body Shop to Aveda, will be familiar to audiences around the world.  There, antiseptic white floors, burning lights, bargain hunter and gatherer shoppers dominate the screen, reminders that we live in the richest civilisation in consumer history. Location wise, Paul Blart: Mall Cop is no visual adventure, but it invites suburban viewers to watch themselves: women fighting for goods, friends sharing processed snacks, tweenage mall rats acting kewl, up, or out, dude.

I confess. This is no Mission to Moscow. To me, Kevin James from King of Queens, is a perfect Paul Blart, a naturally jovial character (enhanced with a frowning moustache), a worker’s worker, a believable security guard. And when his emotions get the better of him, he is even funnier. Clearly, the producers aren’t afraid to offer audiences warmness, warmer than the Roman Warming (250 BC-450 AD), and coldness, colder than the Dark Ages (535-900 AD). Come to think of it, Paul Blart’s co-workers are as warm as ice.

So, can one single father doing it tough rise above it all? Is there hope for today’s pot-bellied man? If a drunken man wakes up with a Loch Ness tattoo does he not feel? Where is the love people? Can fat men joke about fat women? Few writers dare even ask such heretical questions.

Watching Blart watching Amy (Jayma Mays), a shop-kiosk owner, is hilarious, especially when he uses so-called security cameras to secure a good look of her body. Follow me closely here. This movie is offensive to feminists, gun-control zealots, illegal aliens, and their enablers.  That’s not to suggest, though, that there are no hilariously touching moments, or no socially astute messages. Actually, chubby Blart’s crush on Amy, the thinly flirt, is very touching, albeit in some uncomfortable ways.  

Fat men can fight too. Still the writers, Kevin James and Nick Bakay introduce us to an important question, relating to gun rights. From the start we learn that Blart, doesn’t carry arms, and is therefore at a serious disadvantage, but society’s multicultural street toughs do, and that presents many problems. Why? Because in the real world, America’s armed states tend to be less dangerous than her unarmed liberal states. Is there a point here? I think there is – and it is an important one.

Also of interest, is Mr. Blart’s Segway PT, a self-balancing two-wheeled contraption that he glides around on – the electric vehicle for a man too young for a wheelchair, but too old for a skateboard. Indeed, I found it somewhat hypnotising, much like the American flag on Bart’s locker, or the stars and stripes on his uniform, because they’re “daggy” or “oppressive” symbols many moviemakers stay away from. Recall, for example, “the American way” Superman controversy. 

From even further right, the movie, co-produced by Adam Sandler, Kevin James, and Barry Bernardi, suggests that workers steal from their companies, because they can. In this so-called slapstick comedy, the thieves (including Blart’s new worker buddy, an insider) take over the mall with relative ease, taking hostages, and money. As such, the path to resolution unwinds ever so slowly, but the movie is saved by some spectacular chase-and-fight scenes. For viewers, of this box office success, observe the power of comedic street acrobatics, an art too often mocked by arty-fatty anti-physicality filmmakers with body issues.

In Paul Blart: Mall Cop, we learn that life isn’t necessarily a bitch, but some punk attitudes will die, if they’re on the wrong side of the law. The storyline offers some meaty values in an antiseptic shopping centre. We learn that simple movies aren’t necessarily simplistic, and we also find that safety can take a holiday, in this family action comedy, minus the f-bombs, green sermons, and transvestite guest appearances. If anyone ought to know the meaning of the Second Amendment, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed,” it ought to be Paul Blart.

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