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‘Paul Blart’ wastes Kevin James’ talent

By Christy Lemire Associated Press

The biggest crime in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” is not the bank heist that goes down at a New Jersey mall on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

Rather, it’s the egregious way in which Kevin James’ innate likability goes to waste.

The “King of Queens” star showed he could play an underdog with some sweetness and depth as a lovesick accountant in the 2005 romantic comedy “Hitch” – he practically stole the movie away from Will Smith.

This time, he plays yet another misfit, but one who’s so two-dimensional, needy and, frankly, annoying that it’s difficult to root for him.

James’ Paul Blart is a portly pushover who tries hard to be the tough guy as a shopping center security guard. Hypoglycemic and woefully out of shape, he’s failed the New Jersey state trooper exam eight times; nevertheless, he squeezes into his polyester uniform and takes his job as seriously as if he were out keeping the highways safe from speeders and drunk drivers.

In an anemic take off on “Die Hard,” Paul gets his chance to prove himself when a bunch of skateboarding, bike-riding, X Games refugees infiltrate the mall with plans to rob the bank, taking a few hostages in the process.

One of them is Amy (Jayma Mays), the wide-eyed salesgirl at the hair extension kiosk, for whom Paul has the geeky hots.

This being a Happy Madison Production – Adam Sandler is James’ friend and domestic partner from “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” – there are, of course, plenty of obligatory adolescent sight gags to go along with the man-child hero fantasies, all of them flatly staged and observed by director Steve Carr (“Daddy Day Care”).

For times and locations, see page 6.

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