In our attempt to make sense of the cinematic world, we analyzed the weekend box office numbers. Our findings? We want a mall cop we can see on the TV.
My mother once told me that we were all unique and beautiful snowflakes. Of course she was drunk at the time. Okay, the latter statement is a lie, but one can look at Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report and definitely say that both films are unique in spite of their similar lead characters. This may be the only time you hear someone use Kevin James, Seth Rogen and beautiful in the same statement, but I digress.
Just looking at the box office numbers, it would appear that Paul Blart is going to run away as the victor in mall cop movies. Paul Blart has made over $163 million so far, while the more recent Observe and Report has made $11 million after 4 days. But is Paul Blart really the superior film? And if not, then why would so many people go see a film that is clearly not a thinking man’s work? I mean we all love “peanut Blart-er and jelly jokes” but that could only be good for a few million, at best.
By all accounts, in our opinion, Seth Rogen is a superior comedic actor, if not the better actor overall than James. There hasn’t really been one project James was in that could qualify as comedic, but he still is called a comedian. Except for Elmo’s Christmas Countdown. That shit was hilarious. Sigh.
Fellow Film School Rejects writer Landon Palmer wrote in his 21st Century Movie Star piece that the days of beautiful people ruling the box office are over. The performance of these two films would seem to provide an argument both for and against his declaration. James has been a success in movies. But if the argument is going to hold up, why have Rogen’s films not fared as well? Knocked Up was a hit, no question. Pineapple Express made over $100 million, but I believe that is because it is a film about weed. People will take a hit off most weed comedies, no matter the content. But Zack and Miri Make a Porno? A relative bust. Observe and Report? Not a blockbuster by any means.
If you want to cross the line between beauty and the beast, James starred in Hitch with Will Smith, which made $179 million domestically. You can’t tell me that Hitch’s draw had more to do with the robust James than the svelte and charismatic Smith.
James has made a career out of acting opposite a beautiful woman, Leah Remini, in The King of Queens. In a way, James sort of served as the trendsetter for fat men getting to marry women out of their league in sitcoms, and how grateful we all are for that.
On the other end, Observe and Report looks like it will lucky to make over 31 million dollars total, which was the opening weekend draw for Paul Blart. But where as Paul Blart was basically a film about a fat, awkward guy falling on his ass once in a while, Observe and Report was edgy and took risks. The fact that it is being compared to Taxi Driver, even if it is a hyperbolic statement, says something about the merit of the film. It is important, however, to say that date rape never, never makes for good cinema. Still, Jody Hill’s film didn’t stay in the lines, so it wins out versus Kevin James in “Get it! I’m Fat! Someone Laugh Please?!?”
So if Rogen is a better actor, a bigger “star” (dude has been in every single film the last two years. I swear I saw him as Meryl Streep’s maid in Doubt.) and Observe and Report is a superior film in content, why is Paul Blart riding off into the sunset on a golden plated Segway? There can only be one reason. Familiarity. We see Kevin James once a week on television, whether we want to or not. Some people torture themselves by watching reruns also. The same goes for Jason Segel in How I Met Your Mother, which could explain some of the success for his films. Instead of arguing that normal looking people will rule the box office, maybe we should argue that television has killed the movie star. In fact, that will may be the lesson learned next week. That is unless Beyonce Knowles tops the box office with Obsessed. Then we will find a way to mix in Sasha Fierce. Let’s pray The Soloist wins out and we get to talk about TV or Robert Downey Jr.
Whether we like it or not, the reason Paul Blart will beat out the more daring Observe and Report has nothing to do with quality. It’s because Kevin James has become a symbol of American culture. I can’t believe I just said that. Let’s end this article so that I can go wash off. I feel so dirty.