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'Paul Blart: Mall Cop'

The thin comic appeal of Kevin James is laid on a bit thicker in "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," his first solo star vehicle for the big screen. As a loner-loser who can never pass the New Jersey State Police exam and never get the girl, James practically channels John Candy at his most sympathetic.

Blart, a single dad smitten with the blonde (Jayma Mays) who sells hair extensions from a kiosk, always goes the extra mile, even when elderly customers are running him over with their scooters.

Blart instructs a rookie in the ways of the job, "giving the illusion that you have a gun." He is a master of his domain and of the steed that carries him through it, a Segway. James' balletic mastery of the vehicle is easily the best thing about "Mall Cop." The Segway becomes an extension of Blart's persona - underestimated, able to take a licking and keep on ticketing.

James, a native of Stony Brook who is a graceful funnyman in the John Belushi- Jackie Gleason mold, never really transcends this family-friendly comedy's thin story.

The movie is about Blart's greatest challenge - a mall robbery with hostages. Blart must fend off trigger-happy SWAT cops led by the guy who bullied him in high school (Bobby Cannavale) and pick off a pack of skateboard-riding robbers, rescue the girl and save the day.

Still, the big man finds big laughs in his character's mall savviness, his self-deprecating use of his girth and his many Segway moments.

Rated PG

PLOT A Segway-riding New Jersey mall cop confronts a hostage crisis.

CAST Kevin James, Bobby Cannavale, Jayma Mays, Shirley Henderson

LENGTH 1:27

PLAYING AT Area theaters. Buy tickets

BOTTOM LINE Channeling John Candy, James is likable, but he never really transcends the movie's thin story.

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