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Originally published Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 4:00 PM

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Movie review

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop": A comic duet for man and Segway

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop" is a comic duet for man (Kevin James) and Segway. But the rest of the movie is far off key.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 2 stars

"Paul Blart: Mall Cop," with Kevin James, Jayma Mays, Keir O'Donnell, Bobby Cannavale, Stephen Rannazzisi, Shirley Knight. Directed by Steve Carr, from a screenplay by James and Nick Bakay. 87 minutes. Rated PG for some violence, mild crude and suggestive humor and language. Several theaters.

In "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," Kevin James wears a precise cop-style mustache and a perpetual expression of good-guy vulnerability; you can't help but root for the guy, even if you're just rooting that he gets himself into a better movie. Paul is a sweet, single dad who takes his security-guard job extremely seriously, even though he's not very good at it — and he's even worse at meeting women, as his awkward conversations with a cute new hair-extensions saleslady (Jayma Mays) reveal. When the mall is threatened by a mysterious group of criminals, Paul and his Segway must save the day, and there's never any doubt in this movie that he will.

James, who's usually playing second banana on the big screen to the likes of Will Smith ("Hitch") or Adam Sandler ("I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry"), is a skilled physical comedian, and he handles the Segway like it's a comedy-team partner, swooping around corners like a uniformed bird of prey. His ever-alert Paul, a do-gooder and rule-follower (arriving in a bank during a holdup, he obediently goes through the empty roped-off customer line), is instantly likable even as he constantly slams against the walls of his job. "Think about what you are trained to do," he frantically ponders in crisis, before coming to the obvious conclusion: "Nothing."

But the movie, written by James and Nick Bakay and limply directed by Steve Carr ("Daddy Day Care"), substitutes a string of pratfalls, fat jokes, karaoke songs and two-wheeled stunts for plot. Though it has a few weirdly inspired touches — the very agile invaders all seem to have escaped from some advanced school for skateboarding and acrobatics — it's just not particularly funny. That Segway, alas, only goes so far.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725

or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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