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Surprise! Hollywood delivers positive, clean comedy

Box office returns over the last few years have revealed Hollywood can make money on comedies … if they’re really, really raunchy.

In fact, it’s getting harder and harder to see a good comedy that’s also clean enough for family fare.

And while I won’t go so far as to call “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” a “good” comedy, it does buck the trend by being surprisingly clean, and it even includes a positive message on self-sacrifice and servanthood.

Unfortunately, the first half (or more) of this film is spectacularly, painfully bad. The set-up to the action drags through lame jokes, tired clichés and melodramatic blech that feels very dated. Comedian Kevin James (who plays Blart) can play an outstanding secondary character (ala the film “Hitch”), but he struggles to generate laughs in a lead role.

However … once the action begins, once Officer Blart hoists up his drooping pants and determines to save the day, the laughs pick up dramatically. When Blart finally confronts the film’s villain, the confrontation itself is a side-splitting riot. I laughed out loud, repeatedly. The movie almost redeems itself after its miserable start.

I suspect “Mall Cop 2” would be most enjoyable for older children who aren’t overly familiar with James’ shtick. And for parents watching along, the finale has enough laughs to make it a decent rental option for movie night on the sofa.

The movie is doubly fitting for that purpose in that it delivers a redeeming, positive message as well.

“If you believe the purpose of life is to serve yourself,” Blart asserts in the movie’s pivotal moment, “then you have no purpose. Help someone today!”

More than just a positive message tossed in randomly, this “moral of the story” is revealed by the plot as well.

Blart plays a divorced dad who has lost just about everything in his life but his daughter and his unglamorous job as a mall security guard. But when he goes on a trip to a Las Vegas security officer convention with his 18-year-old girl, Blart discovers she is stretching her wings to fly the nest as well. Soon, all he may have left is his job, and it’s a disheartening prospect.

But when art thieves invade the hotel where Blart and his daughter are staying, the slapstick security guard must spring into action again – to save not only the art, but also his daughter, his pride and his perspective as well.

Bart comically demonstrates giving himself to save his daughter, then demonstrates self-sacrifice in his willingness to save her dreams. He even shows he’s willing to surrender a new hope for love in his life to save the heart of a fellow security officer.

“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” is not exactly deep, philosophical stuff. But its heart is in the right place, and it affirms the values many parents hold dear. Even if it is a real chore to sit through the first half of the film, I give “Mall Cop 2” credit for being a positive-themed movie with a few good laughs in the end. That’s a lot more than I can say for many comedies on the silver screen today.

Content advisory: