I haven’t seen Paul Blart: Mall Cop; I haven’t even seen its trailer. In my imagination it’s an utterly dreadful film.
Let’s see if I’m right:
Yeah, looks pretty shit.
Anyway, that film took over $146m at the 2009 US box office, beating Inglourious Basterds, District 9 and Up In The Air.
‘Quality’-wise it managed a fairly poor 33% on Rotten Tomatoes and gained reviews such as, ‘It’s not hard to see why the studio dumped this suckfest in January,’ and ‘The last name Blart may be the funniest thing in the movie’.
So lots of people went to see a shit film. So far, so unremarkable. But when a piece of crap like this succeeds it makes many people question what they’re doing. They think that if Paul Blart: Mall Cop can take in a ton of cash then maybe the search for success should end in pisspoor pratfalls and dismal, derivative plotting. Of course, some people are trying to make Django Unchained or American Hustle, but for the others out there who just want to be rich and famous, a glance in the direction of PBMC would suggest that there’s an S-Class Mercedes awaiting anyone bovine enough to string a few unimaginative gags together.
I think it’s the same when anything succeeds that makes people scratch their heads and go ‘really?’. People start to wonder if they’ve got it wrong, if the path they were on was somehow deluded or misguided. Creativity takes confidence, the kind of self-belief that can build a brick wall to protect against naysayers and internal doubts, and all sorts of things can chip away at that confidence. So when something you think of as awful streaks ahead on the outside it can make sane people question themselves just a little bit more. Sure, PBMC looks woefully unfunny, but it obviously made millions of people very happy indeed (not least its financial backers), and what’s so bad about that? The magazine covers, swanky lunches and all-round adulation that would have resulted from the success of PBMC are the goals of many, many talented people. Is it wrong to go down whatever route takes you to the land of milk and honey?
These are rhetorical questions, of course. Most people are incapable of creating that success because its actually very difficult; otherwise they’d make 50 of those a year and retire as billionaires (although I should point out that Adam Sandler’s production company is behind PBMC and he does seem intent on shit-movie-ing himself into enough cash to choke a hippo).
Have you ever seen a shit ad win loads of awards and wondered if your taste is out of whack? Or written a script and thought ‘If such-and-such crappy ad can win a Gold at Cannes then why can’t this?’? But for your own sanity, for the preservation of whatever you think your soul is, you have to keep those thoughts at bay. What you consider to be good or bad is a true a reflection of yourself as anything. For all intents and purposes it defines your every creative action. It may be hard to keep your compass pointing to true north, but at the end of the day that’s all you’ve got.
So treasure it as you crawl into that cardboard box under Waterloo Bridge, smug in the knowledge you never inflicted Paul Blart fucking Mall Cop on the world.