Near the end of “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” Kevin James’ titular security guard dangles precariously from a zip line strung between Encore and Wynn Las Vegas.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself rooting for gravity.
There isn’t a single laugh to be found anywhere near the comedy. Nor is there a chuckle, a giggle, a snicker, a titter or even a knowing smile of recognition. There’s only the sort of overwhelming sadness usually reserved for Ingmar Bergman films.
Not that any of this is intentional. In the first five minutes, we learn that his wife, Amy (Jayma Mays), divorced him after six days because of her “uncontrollable vomiting” — a fairly natural reaction for anyone to have in the presence of Blart. And his beloved mother (Shirley Knight) is run over by a milk truck and killed. Both of these scenes are played for laughter that never comes.
At least not from the crowd — if 12 people can be considered a crowd — at a Thursday night showing. Technically it was only 10, though, as one couple left during the opening credits and never returned. (The studio wisely chose not to screen it for critics.)
As lazily titled as it was made, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” sends James’ Blart and his teenage daughter, Maya (Raini Rodriguez), to Las Vegas — more precisely to Wynn Las Vegas — for a security convention. This lets Blart wander through the trade show and size up all sorts of nonlethal weapons, including one that covers the suspect in glue. It’s called the Big Sticky Mess, which would have been a better name for the sequel.
More infomercial than movie, “Blart” pays far less attention to anything resembling a plot than to showcasing every aspect of Wynn Las Vegas, from the pool to Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare to “Le Reve.” But you have to wonder why. Steve Wynn could train a team of monkeys to defecate in the lobby to the sounds of banjo music, and it wouldn’t be any more embarrassingly off-brand for the high-end resort.
It just seems like a stunning miscalculation for Wynn, featured in a wordless cameo, whose previous greatest crime against the arts was putting his elbow through a Picasso.
Anyway, in what passes for story, a group of criminals sets out to steal Wynn’s most priceless artifacts. Their leader (Neal McDonough) kidnaps Maya. And the hotel’s gorgeous general manager (Daniella Alonso) finds herself inexplicably attracted to Blart. Sadly, Alonso isn’t up to the task. Not even Meryl Streep is up to that task.
James has an innate likability, but he torpedoes any residual good will audiences had from the original movie. Blart has become a caricature of a cartoon. When he isn’t falling down, Blart is being an overprotective nightmare to Maya, whom he’s worried he’s about to lose. He doesn’t want his life to become a “cold tomb of loneliness.”
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 — Cold Tomb of Loneliness” also would have been a better name for the sequel.
“Security is a mission,” Blart says. “Not an intermission.” What does that even mean?
It’s one of many lines that resemble jokes only in the way that they’re structured. But at least James can blame it all on the awful, disinterested script.
What’s that? He co-wrote it with Nick Bakay? Never mind.
During Blart’s awkward convention speech, a fellow security guard (Loni Love) is so inspired, she yells out, “You go Paul Blart!”
Yes, Paul Blart. You go. And take everybody involved with this mess with you.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @life_onthecouch
“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”
PG; some violence
At multiple locations