Sunday, January 18, 2009

"So do you think they got shrunk down, or is it just a giant sack?"

The early months of a new year are a strange and fascinating time when it comes to movie releases. The emerging award season and the general slowdown in business of theaters nationwide lead to an unpredictable movie release landscape. On one hand you have your prestige pictures; some held over from the previous month, others entering wide release to capture the crest of the Oscar buzz. On the other hand you have the glut of held over cinematic trash from the previous year that the studios are hoping to quietly and unceremoniously dump out at multiplexes during the slowest time of the season. There is no other time of the year that comes close to the sort of wild cinematic clashes where potential Oscar winners compete head to head with potential Razzie winners for the hearts and wallets of the ambivalent movie going public.

Now while I haven't see the new Kevin James vehicle "Paul Blart: Mall Cop", I'm sure most will agree with me that it is closer to the latter Razzie category of January pictures than the former. The whole movie just screams cheap January laughs. You know what you're going to get when you buy your tickets to "Mall Cop", about two hours of: a fat guy looking ridiculous on a Segway (lol!), a fat guy taking his petty job as a mall cop far too seriously (haha!), a fat guy falling down a lot (ho ho!), fat guy saving the day at the end and getting the hot girl (rofl!). Just to ensure the laugh factor they slapped on a goofy mustache (hilarity), gave the main guy a silly name (Blart? That rhymes with fart) and set the whole thing in Jersey (the only state whose setting itself can be a joke). The whole thing looks by the book and destined for brief, inconsequential, quick change run in the theaters. I should hate it, or at the very least not even be thinking all that much about it, however as you can tell this is not the case.

I have a personal pantheon of watchability interest when it comes to movies. At the very top is the movie I am willing to spend money on in theaters to see ("The Dark Knight"), right below that is a movie I am willing to rent a copy on (I just recently rented 'The Philadelphia Story"), below that tier is a movie I am willing to watch on TV even with commercials (any time they play "Starship Troopers" on TNT I have to stick it out), under that are commercial free movies on premium channels (like the time I saw "Threesome". Was it a particularly good movie? No, but it was commercial free and had some nudity), and finally there are movies I have no interest in seeing unless paid too (oh, how about "The Sex in the City Movie"). This wacky version of "Die Hard" should be in that bottom rung of watchability interest with such similar January/February fat guy comedy releases as "Code Name: The Cleaner" and the Larry the Cable Guy epic "Witless Protection". However, I'm don't find myself automatically disgusted by "Mall Cop". While it is no where near the top of my pantheon, I might go as far to watch it with commercials on TBS a year or two down the line, perhaps even rent it if my Netflix queue gets a little light.

There's really no concrete reason why "Mall Cop" seems mildly amusing to me. It's sort of like when Elaine wanted to see "Sack Lunch" over the "English Patient". Sometimes you just want to see a movie about a family in a giant sack over some overwrought Oscar bait. Between global economic meltdown, Somali pirates, the fighting in Gaza, and ongoing wars abroad, the world's in a pretty shitty place right now. Sometimes I just want to see a fat guy falling down over "Doubt".

And if I am going to see a fat guy fall down, you really can't get better these days than Kevin James. From all the "King of Queens" episodes I've seen on planes and rained out ballgames, the guy is quite agile for a big man, like a Kirby Puckett or Bam Bam Bigelow. He definitely has some notworthy physical comedy talents. In the end isn't the only real thing that separates the fluff films of Kevin James and the "culturally significant" work of noted heavyweight silent film star Fatty Arbuckle is about seven decades of nostalgia (and a murder trial). A quality fat guy falling is a fat guy falling.

Note: As of the conclusion and posting of this entry, the latest weekend Box Office returns seems to indicate that a great number of the movie going crowded preferred some lighter fat guy fair. The previous week's number one film it beat out? The critically acclaimed "Gran Torino".

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