Gluttony gets giggles in Paul Blaurt: Mall Cop

maureen

Last week while everyone else was watching Academy Award nominated movies I went to see Paul Blaurt: Mall Cop. It’s basically a formulaic comedy featuring an overweight mall security officer.  While many critics proclaimed the jokes tired and recycled, they made me laugh, again.  Sometimes it’s nice to go to a movie and just laugh without having to be smart or in on the joke. It also struck me that a very large (excuse the pun) part of this movie hinged on Paul’s weight problem.

Many of the gags are funnier because Paul is fat.  There is something about a fat guy falling down that elicits more laughs.  Though there are plenty of these steriotypical moments in the movie, it’s easy to root for Paul.  He makes a great underdog.  Paul is a quick thinker who responds admirably to everything the bad guys throw at him.  He is a compassionate and caring father and friend.  He is actually quite athletic yet people look at his body and his size and dismiss him as irrelevant.  Perhaps we do not expect fat people to be athletic or heroic so it’s novel and entertaining to see a flip or a stunt by a big guy.

Paul’s weight and hypoglycemia are portrayed as career and relationship stoppers.  Though he’s carrying quite a few excess pounds, Paul performs admirably on the police cadet training course; however his hypoglycemia causes him to faint and fail the test.  Meanwhile Paul is so committed to a career in law enforcement that he’s spent a decade in the uniform of a mall security officer.  While others see this as laughable, Paul takes the job of protecting mall patrons and personnel very seriously.  He wants to realize his dream of becoming a full-fledged police officer but accepts that his physical limitations may prevent this ever becoming a reality.

Paul is so sincere that it’s awkward.  He wants so much to find someone to love and who will love him and his daughter as they are.  He turns to online dating.  He tries way too hard with Amy, a mall kiosk operator who Paul considers out his league.  The handsome, self-absorbed Stuart undermines Paul in front of Amy, dismissing him because of his weight and his job.  Paul’s perception, like that of many overweight people, is that his weight makes attractive members of the opposite sex unattainable.  The thought of being alone depresses him and then he eats because it makes him feel better.

Paul admits that he uses food to compensate for disappointment and hurt.  Nearly every time we see Paul’s mother in the movie she is offering food as comfort.  Her child is hurting and she wants to do something immediate to help him feel better.  Food is an easy fix.  Paul is ambivalent about his eating, at first pushing away from the table determined to lose weight, then declaring that chili dogs would probably be the appropriate salve for his wounded psyche.  Food is an important part of family dynamics in the Blaurt household.  Paul’s mother and daughter are both overweight and pictures of his ex show an extremely obese woman.  While both mother and daughters act as enablers in Paul’s weight issue, the family is also very loving, supportive, and otherwise pretty functional.  When Paul is shown at home, though,  he seems more like a typical fat guy, sedentary and chewing.

Scenes at the mall and with Amy make his weight a more incidental issue.  This may seem like a small distinction but it is important.  Throughout the movie Paul is moving away from his role as fat guy and toward becoming a person who happens to be fat.  Gluttony is an addiction to food.  Food offers emotional comfort, feelings of elation, and physical satisfaction.  A glutton thinks about the next meal, a lot.  Feeling good is dependent on eating comfort food which is usually something packed with fat and calories.  We do not see Paul defeat his problem with gluttony but we sense that he is aware of it and wants to change his behavior.  As Paul begins see himself differently, weight becomes less and less a factor that might prevent him from moving on in his life.

Paul does not have to lose weight first in order to gain acceptance or experience success.  Paul has an issue with gluttony which he is addressing.  This is part of his life but it does not define him.  He is a pudgy hero with a beautiful girl on his arm rather than a fat lonely loser.  Paul has found fulfillment and success in areas that have nothing to do with his stomach.


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