This weekend Kevin James starrer Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 will hit the theatres, and going by the name you should be able to guess that it is a sequel. Sequel to what? I do not blame you if you cannot answer this question. The original Paul Blart: Mall Cop had released in 2009, a whole six years back which is a long time in Hollywood. Kevin James produced the movie along with fellow comedian Adam Sandler and co-wrote the script too. It was a surprise success, opening with $32 million and eclipsing its production budget of $26 million; it ended its theatrical run with $183 million in worldwide box-office collections. That was the time when Kevin James was on a high. His popular TV series The King of Queens had come to an end, and he was widening his movie career. Paul Blart: Mall Cop showed that things could work with Kevin James in the lead role. Sadly, it never got any better thereon. Kevin James’ movie career has been in doldrums ever since, his roles have felt like rehashes of his past works, his comic timing a bit jarring rather than funny, and his efforts at growing as a lead actor have received a lukewarm reception. The fact that he needs to step back into a six-year old role, which was a hit but not something with a repetitive value, to revitalise his career sums up his career progression. If you need a few more details on how the years have flown by for Kevin James since Paul Blart: Mall Cop then just scroll down.
Kevin James was part of the big goofy cast of Grown Ups but this was an Adam Sandler film more than anything else, with James having to play second fiddle. The movie received weak reviews but was a financial success, though for Kevin James’ career, it did nothing more than show that he gels well with Adam Sandler. As if we did not already know!
The Dilemna was the first of two releases for Kevin James in the year. Co-starring with Vince Vaughn, this movie was directed by none other than Ron Howard, and it did reflect that Kevin James was moving up the ladder. But by the time the movie had flopped at the box-office and received a rather uncharacteristic weak critical reception for a Ron Howard film, all we knew was that Ron Howard should not attempt comedy films. In the summer of 2011, Kevin James’ credentials as a lead actor were tested in the film Zookeeper where the animals in a zoo talked and guided James on how to woo the woman he loved. The movie was as silly as its premise made it looks like; it was panned by critics, and did not do too well at the box-office.
Kevin James wrote and produced and starred in Here Comes the Boom, a sports comedy film. The $42 million movie made only $73 million at the box-office which is not enough to even count as breakeven. Yet another attempt by Kevin James to carry a movie on his own shoulders failed, and while the blame does not fall on his acting ability, it is rather the poor choice of scripts, the weak comedy, and the inability to reinvent himself as a comedian, which is hurting him. In the same year, he voiced Frankenstein in the hit animated film Hotel Transylvania. But you cannot give much credit to a supporting actor for the success of an animated film, can you?
Kevin James was part of the ensemble cast of Grown Ups 2 which was another financial success like the first flick, and once again, criticized by the critics. The only positive I can say about Kevin James in this movie is that he was not part of any of the nominations received by the film and its actors for the 2014 Golden Raspberry Awards, apart from ‘Worst Screen Combo’.
Zip. Zilch. Nada.
After a gap of about two and a half years, Kevin James steps into the lead role once more. Before the year ends, we will also see him star alongside Adam Sandler in Pixels and then lend his voice in Transylvania 2. So there is no dearth of work for this funny gentle actor, but hopefully, the next five years will turn out to be better and more memorable than the last five did.