Utemark: Movie, political mediocrity is boring

ReAnne Utemark

The Topeka theatre finally got a movie I have been waiting to see since early December: “Frost/Nixon.” It was interesting to me not only because I am a journalist and a history nerd, but also because the team of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer do not often disappoint. The live-action “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” might be an exception. After purchasing the tickets for the 8:15 p.m. show, we noticed that the person behind the ticket counter had a sign that said, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” was sold out. Being a Friday night, it is not surprising that a movie was sold out but what shocked me most was the fact that it was “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” Admittedly, I haven’t seen the movie, but with Oscar season in full swing, one would think that moviegoers would use their increasingly small entertainment budget on something more substantial than “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”

Sure, Oscar-bait isn’t for everyone and often, the Academy picks overblown, overwrought movies that most people can’t stand except for the movie equivalent of foodies. For example, many columnists and critics said “The Dark Knight” did not get the credit it deserved. It was one of those rare combinations of critical acclaim and something that audiences loved watching.

But back to “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” the selling out of this movie was probably caused by the same sentiment that kept former President George W. Bush in the White House for eight years: settling for the mundane and mediocre.

Pundits and columnists, particularly for the New York Times, heralded President Obama’s election as a reentry of the intelligentsia into politics. America elected someone who was an intellectual (nerdy, even) to help solve the problems of the world, rather than kicking in collective doors with a collective boot. Obama wasn’t necessarily someone you wanted to have a beer with, but that will probably be ok. The everyperson is, indeed, the everyperson, the average American – which is not a bad thing. The fascination with the everyperson in entertainment and politics is rather boring, however.

Before it got canceled, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” satisfied my craving for Aaron Sorkin’s writing after “The West Wing.” It got canceled after one season because it was “too smart.” So, on network television, what was left was the “Men are Dumb, Fat Guy/Skinny wife” comedy. Thrilling. Comedic genius.

Moviegoers should be able to watch whatever they want to – but making “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” the No. 1 movie for two consecutive weekends makes me wonder about Topeka and the nation in general. Nothing against Kevin James or the everyman, but there are at least three movies at the Topeka theatre that are being heralded for their acting, effects and various other achievements. “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” are both nominated for best picture and both are, amazingly, playing at the Topeka theatre.

But nevermind an interesting look into American history or a commentary on culture or a movie made from the fiction from one of the most recognizable authors of the 20th century – let’s go watch “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” Chubby guys falling down have never been funnier.