You can say what you want about the 2009 comedy "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," and many critics did upon its release. Starring Stony Brook's Kevin James as a police academy washout trying to retain his dignity as a New Jersey mall security guard, the film nevertheless became a $183 million hit. There were reasons for that: It was fairly wholesome and very all-American, with the likable James playing a dedicated working man and loving father to his half-Latina daughter, Maya (Raini Rodriguez).
The movie was not laugh-out-loud funny, and neither is the sequel, "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2." Set in Las Vegas and centered on an art heist at Steve Wynn's eponymous and prominently branded hotel, it's a repeat of the original in every way, from the slim plot (James wrote with Nick Bakay) to the low-energy slapstick (director Andy Fickman replaces Steve Carr). What makes it tolerable is James's big-hearted Blart and an overall spirit of goodwill.
There are a few chuckles. Blart continues to insist that he's a real "officer," a delusion that actually works in his favor when a gorgeous hotel manager (Daniella Alonso) becomes helplessly attracted to his confident masculinity. At a security trade convention, Blart samples various pathetically harmless weapons, including a feeble Taser whose effects last a mere five seconds; the gizmo ends up providing one of the film's funnier routines. Veteran character actors Nicholas Turturro, Gary Valentine and Loni Love play Bart's motley comrades.More movie reviewsLatest movie reviews
A welcome presence is Neal McDonough (HBO's "Band of Brothers," FX's "Justified"). He gamely spoofs his ramrod persona in the role of Vincent, a criminal mastermind with a severe oatmeal allergy. Watching McDonough and James try to out-crazy each other with absurd threats ("I will pour maple syrup all over your face!") is a minor highlight.
More notable are the jokes the movie doesn't make. There are none about poop or body-parts, there are no ethnic slurs or homophobic humor, and Blart's heavyset daughter is never mocked or taunted. All of that ought to count for something. "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" may be forgettable, but it's difficult to truly dislike.