Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 **Dir: Andy Fickling. With: Kevin James, Raini Rodriguez, Eduardo Verastegui, Daniella Alonso. 94 mins. Cert: PG
The gut feeling is that if anybody urgently needed the further adventures of Kevin James’ human Weeble, we’d have had them a year or two after 2009’s amiably duff original. Six years on, and the gods have provided us with a cinematic equivalent to the second Cheeky Girls album, or anything Sir Mix-a-Lot put out after “Baby Got Back”: any novelty has long worn off, leaving behind a flagrant cashgrab. Repeat exposure does raise the intriguing possibility that Blart – a plump, dim-witted sucker who gets knocked down repeatedly, but always recovers to restore order – might be meant as a manifestation of middle-American character, much as Tim Spall’s awkward, weather-sensitive, snaggletoothed Mr. Turner was bound up in ideas of British self-image. Still, that’s almost certainly to ascribe too much significance to a film born of Adam Sandler’s production-line formula, sloping out towards another incentive-offering leisure resort – here Vegas, where Blart foils a casino heist – to cobble together saggy sketches mixing blunt, obvious knockabout (of course PB blunders into a Cirque de Soleil-style spectacle) with underfelt family values.
The franchise operates firmly in the PG safe zone, which at least spares us the half-assed chauvinism of Sandler’s recent vehicles, but this only results in even less of an actual movie than Blended or Jack and Jill: 94 minutes of harmless, mostly jokeless, tensionless pop-cultural background noise in which Neal McDonough (so terrific as the DA on TV’s Boomtown) displays unnecessary flickers of class as a precise villain, and James and co-writer Nick Bakay toss in references to Joseph Conrad and “I’ve Never Been to Me” hitmaker Charlene either to win a bet or tip accompanying adults the wink they’re actually more cultured than all this pratfalling would suggest. Blart himself remains a big man – James’s surprisingly limber bulk is the one gag this sequel has to shamble along with – but the pictures really are getting smaller, it would seem: already vanishing from UK screens and surely doing likewise in the US over the coming days, this really is a fly’s fart of a film, the most microscopically tiny of afterthoughts.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is now playing in cinemas nationwide.