RATING |

Comedian Kevin James has the lead in "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," otherwise known as "Die Hard With a Fat Guy."

It's a short, slapstick comedy from Adam Sandler's production company featuring James as a sad-sack single dad who works in security a Jersey mall.

He's an overeater and an underachiever dumped by his mail-order bride, rejected by the state police, without much chance of charming the pretty girl (Jayma Mays) who works at the hair-extension kiosk.

She resists when Blart puts the moves on her, and no wonder. He's encumbered by the Segway scooter he's required to ride on the job.

You remember the Segway - the device that was meant to replace walking but instead became the first and perhaps only device to overestimate our collective sloth.

The sight of the rotund James tilting about on his space-age scooter is a gag, I'll admit, that never gets old, even though it accounts for at least half of the movie's 87 minutes.

Director Steve Carr has a feel for physical comedy and so does James, and there's enough here to keep 10-year-olds occupied. Adults might get a few laughs as the movie evolves into a "Die-Hard" send-up.

Crooks lock down the mall on Black Friday to steal credit-card data, with only Blart on the inside to stop them. The highlight features the portly James stuck in a ventilation shaft like a plus-sized Bruce Willis.

"Mall Cop" sputters, though, in trying to spread the mirth to secondary characters. Keir O'Donnell makes a second-rate Alan Rickman, and his crew of skateboarding henchmen are an undistinguished lot.

Unlike James himself, the movie is a few bricks shy of a load, which explains why a movie obviously ticketed for a holiday release has backed up to mid-January. *

Produced by Doug Belgrad, Todd Garner, Kev*n James, Adam Sandler, Jeff Sussman and Matthew Tolmach, d*rected by Steve Carr, wr*tten by Kev*n James and N*ck Bakay, d*str*buted by Sony P*ctures Enterta*nment.