Will “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” put the nail in the career coffin for Kevin James?

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It’s not surprising that “Paul Blart: Mall Cop”, one of the most inexplicably popular films of 2009, managed to earn itself a sequel. What is surprising is that it took Kevin James six years to do it. Too much time has passed, all the wounds have healed and Paul Blart’s fan base have come to terms with what they did and how it affected our country in the eyes of the world.

They’ve had time to reflect, grow and just generally accept the fact they allowed Kevin James to infect our pop-cultural landscape with “Zookeeper” and “Here Comes the Boom.” They realized they didn’t just hurt themselves but the people around them. They’re deeply sorry and they won’t be making the same mistake twice. At this point, even the dumbest, most undiscerning Blart-thusiast have stared deeply at their reflection in the mirror and, through an endless cascade of tears, asked why?

Why did they open their wallets and allow a tote-bag filled with flop sweat that was uneasily placed on a Segway to take whatever it wanted? But much like the grandmother who still buys you Webkinz in spite of the fact you’re in your early 20s and it’s no longer 2007, James and all of the rest of the Apple Blartling Gang neither seem to be aware that you’ve moved on nor do they seem to care. You’re getting “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” whether you like it or not. And believe me, you won’t.

Now, before I go any further, I realize that as empty gestures go, reviewing a movie like “Paul Blart 2” is probably the emptiest. Everybody has already made their mind up about this and a review isn’t going to tell them anything they didn’t already expect. The title “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” says way more about this movie than I possibly ever could. But understand, no matter how bad you think this is, in reality, it’s much, much worse.

Set entirely within the confines of the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, “Paul Blart 2” feels less like a movie and more like somebody tried to attach a narrative to the hotel information channel that plays on every TV at the Wynn Resort. So, sure, Paul is going to stop a bored, underacting Neal McDonough from stealing all kinds of priceless art. But before then, perhaps you’d like to join Paul as he checks out the mysterious world of La Reve at the Wynn Resort’s thrilling aqua theater-in-the-round? As Paul struggles with his adolescent daughter’s (Raini Rodriguez) burgeoning independence be sure to experience the exceptional fare and informal atmosphere of Zoozacrackers Deli. At times you can almost tell that a movie is happening in between “Paul Blart 2’s” cynical, ever-present, product placement. And being that the movie exists merely to promote the Wynn Resort, “Paul Blart 2” makes no real effort to entertain or even make sense.

The generic pratfalls and Segway humor from the first film are shamelessly recycled. None of the characters seem to realize that key note speakers aren’t actually required to improvise speeches on the spot nor do they seem to notice how insane it is for a hotel to sell human-sized suitcases that are bulletproof. There’s a casual hatefulness running through “Paul Blart 2”. Not just because cheap, non-existent laughs are desperately mined from the sight of watching elderly women abused or hit by a truck. Nor is it because the film endorses ‘negging’ – that gross pick-up tactic favored by roofie enthusiasts and men whose wardrobes were acquired by digging through Jamiroquai’s garbage.

It’s hateful in the sense it’s lazy in such a willful, obvious way. At the end of every scene you can practically hear director Andy Fickman shout “Good enough” or “Whatever.” Nobody is even attempting to hide the fact they’re doing this for an easy paycheck. It’s infuriating.

All of this may have been forgivable if James was an engaging performer or if Blart was an interesting character. Instead James is a Stepford Chris Farley that was programmed to shout, fall down a lot and not much more. Meanwhile, Blart is self-pitying, arrogant, controlling and completely unlikeable.

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” is inessential and punishing. It’s a sentimental, sugar-frosted turd whose only redeeming quality is that it just might kill off James’ career once and for all.