By no reasonable standard is Paul Blart: Mall Cop a good movie. It is perhaps even a very bad movie, and a largely unamusing comedy. That's even adjusting for the already questionable comic standards of the "fatty fall down" genre, one of the loudest and most obnoxious of all possible subgenres.

So it is bizarre to say, and even more bizarre to think, but I am genuinely horrified by the things that Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 does to the original film, to the dignity of the titular character, and to the basic affability of Kevin James, who isn't funny but usually can be called upon to be likeable and sweet. He is, in PBMC2, a bullying asshole, miles from the puffed-up but still earnest and decent protagonist of the first movie, and this adds a pervasive sour note. But to be fair to the newer, meaner Blart, he comes by it honestly, as a reaction to the film's opening, which under the guise of "absurd comedy" piles a series of arbitrary cosmic cruelties on top of him worthy of an Ibsen play. This adds an additional sour note.

But yes, so after saving the day and winning the girl in PBMC1, we find that Blart's marriage lasted all of six days, until his new bride found herself so repulsed by his body that she couldn't stop vomiting, and so had the marriage annulled. Two years later, Blart's beloved Mama Blart was run over by a milk truck picking up the paper. And for the last four years, he has sat in his solitude, in the company solely of his teenager daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez), upon whom he lavishes all his frustration and bitterness by micromanaging her life into a socially empty oblivion. Comedy tonight!

The surprising notes of meanness and bitterness extend into the main bulk of the film, which finds Blart rather snottily throwing his weight around (metaphorically; all he does with his actual weight is serve as the butt of low-intensity slapstick), acting like a big deal because of that mall heist he stopped in 2009, and then being humiliated. You know that absolutely wretched shot of Kevin James suddenly turning into CGI and getting kicked across the street by a horse that was in the trailer? In case not, now you do:

The movie is so proud of that horrible, horrible joke, it positions it as the very last gag in the whole movie. Two lines of dialogue spread across a couple of shots are all that stand between this image and the end credits. Spoiler alert, I'd say, but it's more of a humanitarian gesture. The point is, the film detests Blart a little bit. Not the easiest way to feel like you have a way to connect with anybody or anything going on.

The pretext is that Blart has been invited to Las Vegas for a convention of security officers, luckily arriving on exactly the same weekend that a disgruntled gambler named Vincent (Neal McDonough) is executing the theft of several priceless pieces of art from the excellent and glamorous collection at Steve Wynn's twin resorts, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas, home to shopping, fine food, and exciting live entertainment. While staying at the Wynn resorts, recipients of several five star and AAA ratings- beg pardon? A movie? What mov- oh, fuck, 2 Blart 2 Mall, that's right. Well, sometimes the film makes it really fucking hard to tell, particularly when Steve and Andrea Wynn show up for plastic cameos that bespeak the kind of pants-shitting horror people feel when they've never been on a film set before, and the director just yelled "action", and what am I supposed to do wait the movie is filming right now, and goddammit, keep smiling...

Now Blart, having no idea how conventions work, hears of a rumor that he's going to give the keynote speech that night, which adds even more to his insufferable ego, and leads to even worse mortification when he finds out otherwise. Eventually, he does get to deliver a speech, through the usual shenanigans - and by "usual shenanigans", I of course mean "sloppy blackout drunkenness", because this is a kids' film. And when Blart does manage to deliver that speech, he does so with timorous self-doubt that finds its footing and resonates really well with the audience, and that's it, there's no joke, no cringe humor. I was so unbelievably grateful to the film for giving me this one moment that wasn't irredeemably angry or demeaning that I was prepared to stand up and applaud myself. It is an oasis, filled with precious pure water, and in any other film it would be a solid 4/10 moment.

Dealing with a demoralising convention isn't Blart's only problem at the moment. As he does not know, Maya has been accepted to UCLA, and has to decide how to break the news that she's going to movie all the way across the country to her dysfunctionally clingy father; as he does know, she's also been flirting up a storm with Lane (David Henrie), one of the parking valets at the fabulous Wynn Las Vegas res- I am so sorry, I just keep getting confused whether this is a movie or a 94-minute tourism video. Meanwhile, his colorful polyglot coterie of security guard colleagues - including Fuckin' This Guy Ovuh Heeyuh (Gary Valentine), Sassy Black Lady, Mm-hm (Loni Love), and Vaguely Gross Narcoleptic Indian (Shelly Desai) - pal around with him as he needlessly makes an enemy of the hotel's head of security Eduardo (Eduardo VerΓ‘stegui) by repeatedly, if inadvertently, sexually harassing the man's girlfriend, the hotel's general manager Divina Martinez (Daniella Alonso).

And so Blart struggles on to keep his masculinity intact in a world that keeps telling him he's a lonely fat loser with no purpose in life but to eat himself into a diabetic coma. It's a damn pity that no team of highly methodical yet easily buffaloed art thieves are around for a poor bastard like Blart to stymie with the help of his wacky security guard colleagues and thus regain the respect of his peers, his family, and the person who matters the most: himself.

I swear to Christ, I wish they still shot movies on film just so we could have something to set on fire.

1/10