Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)

Directed by Steve Carr. I generally think it's ungrounded when comedians accuse each other of stealing jokes. If you're all in the business of looking out for the funny stuff of life, you're probably going to run across similar observations. Also, similar jokes are bound to show up because a lot of joke writing is filling in the numbers to algebraic formulas. Comedians essentially hit us with very sophisticated, much smarter versions of knock-knock/who's-there, good-news/bad-news and so on.

The reason I bring this up is because at least five years ago, two screenwriter friends of mine told me about their current project, a script called "Mall Cop." I have a running joke with one of them, Rob, where I pitch him the most ridiculous titles I can ("Rollerblade Academy," "Project: Cheerleader," "The Envelope Lickers") and yell at him, "C'mon, it writes itself!" In this case, they came to me with "Mall Cop" and said it wrote itself: a man-child may still live with his mother and get by as a shopping mall security guard, but his whole life changes when terrorists take over the mall -- and he is everyone's only hope.

This is exactly the plot of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," though a comedy of this sort is based on an algebraic formula; you fill in the numbers and it calculates itself. It's a pretty good idea, so somebody else was bound to have it.

Yet I consider "Paul Blart" a massive triumph for my friends and I would like to use this space to congratulate Arthur Lizie and Rob Hallworth on this big screen accomplishment. They did not write "Paul Blart," which is credited to its star, Kevin James, with Nick Bakay. However, Hollywood is so full of heartbreaking stories of lost financing, ambivalent studios, celebrity politics, legal problems and sheer competition that very few screenwriters ever see their work make it to the theaters.

Still it's the same damn thing as their movie and there it is on the silver screen without them having to do a damn thing. I'd bet you could find plenty of embattled screenwriters in Hollywood that would say it might be worth getting to see one's work on the screen even if it meant not being involved in the project.

Now, if only somebody would make "Project: Cheerleader."

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