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Why “Paul Blart” may be the most important film of 2009.

Why “Paul Blart” may be the most important film of 2009. (photo)

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Our friends over at the newly launched Film Salon have been posting entries from different writers on what each considers the most important film of the decade. (I’m a contributor.) In the same spirit as, say, Michael Tully arguing for “The Real Cancun,” let me offer up a proposition: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” speaks for 2009 like no other movie.

That’s not to say it’s a good film, or even a competent one. Under the helmsmanship of the ever-regrettable Steve Carr (“Dr. Dolittle 2,” “Daddy Day Care” and — ultimate insult — “Next Friday”), it’s crass and poorly paced, a “Die Hard” homage for the PG “Ouch! My Balls!” set. Blart (rhymes with “fart,” something you can’t help but think was on the screenwriters’ minds), as embodied by Kevin James, is a big ol’ tub of New Jersey lard, complete with an ’80s relic mustache, and there’s nothing particularly lovable about him. Nor can much be said for the uncolorful villain (Keir O’Donnell) or the one-man-versus-all stuff. And the eyelines don’t match! In every respect, this is one terrible movie.

On the other hand: this is “Dawn of the Dead,” only the protagonists are the zombies, unaware they’re unaware. I love Romero’s movie, but that has a lot more to do with how well-made it is than any complex “critique” it’s offering about mall culture (which is pretty self-evident).

“Paul Blart,” on the other hand, thinks it’s good clean family fare, which makes it revealing. With the exception of the villain, crew and token hot chick to be won over by Blart (Jayma Mays), everyone here is fat, out-of-shape, working a minimum-wage job with no prospects for advancement and deeply pissed off about it; an alleged comic highlight is Blart having the crap beaten out of him by an over-enraged fat woman. A world outside shoddy suburban homes and stifling mall culture doesn’t exist; the jobs are sedentary, the intellectual stimulation nil.

12172009_paulblart_9.jpg“Paul Blart”‘s a movie for the recession economy, filmed in a world full of crap being protected by people who can’t afford to buy any of it. It’s unapologetically suburban (filmed in Massachusetts, set in New Jersey) and absolutely marginalized. Its main locales are functional: Blart’s mess of a home, the bank within the mall where checks are deposited, and the horrific T.G.I. Friday’s type restaurant the holiday party takes place at. It is, in short, incredibly depressing and zero fun whatsoever.

None of which the film seems to recognize. And, of course, its outsize success — combined with its dismal reviews — led to some conservative soapboxing about how this is a real American movie, not that effete nonsense critics like. Which is in itself part of the zeitgeist!

My point here is that “Paul Blart” is as ugly and misshapen as the year it’s part of. Future scholars could study it just as rigorously as, say, ugly ’50s anti-Communist paranoia or ’60s movies featuring dudes with sitars. No joke.

It’s still a terrible movie, though.

[Photos: “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” Paramount, 2009]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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