Monday, April 20, 2015 | 7 p.m.
A slate of dismal reviews couldn’t stop Paul Blart from riding his Segway to second place at the box office this weekend. The Las Vegas-based “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” raked in a solid $24 million over its first three days, despite one critic calling it “the cinematic equivalent of biting into an old brown banana.”
The Kevin James sequel was the first project to benefit from Nevada’s new film tax credit program, picking up $4.3 million in transferable tax credits in March of last year. The program offers films that shoot at least 60 percent in Nevada a transferable tax credit worth 15 to 19 percent of in-state expenses, up to $20 million. “Mall Cop 2,” which was shot largely at the Wynn, cost about $30 million to make.
The comedy, which came in just behind “Furious 7,” didn’t quite match the original’s opening run during the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend in 2009. The surprise hit raked in $31.8 million during its first three days and $39.2 million for the first four.
The sequel’s box office standing is all the more baffling given the unanimously abysmal reviews it received from critics. It earned a rare 0 percent rating on RottenTomatoes.com, joining the ranks of flops like “Jaws: The Revenge,” “I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer” and “Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back.”
Blunt reviews of the film leave little room for interpretation.
“Truly, there is not a single redeeming moment in director Andy Fickman's film. A general flatness and lethargy permeates these reheated proceedings,” Christy Lemire said in her review for RogerEbert.com.
Tom Huddleston of Time Out, meanwhile, was compelled to wonder, “What would a film be like if every single person involved made as little effort as humanly possible?”
The original “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” wasn’t exactly a critics’ darling, but it did manage a 33 percent fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
The sequel has at least one fan. Democratic Sen. Aaron Ford, who spearheaded the tax credit program in 2013, tweeted that he “laughed a lot” when he saw the film on its opening night, but admitted “maybe I’m biased.”
“Mall Cop 2” isn’t the only recipient of the state film tax credit program to get panned by critics. The Yahoo web series “Sin City Saints,” which filmed at Orleans Arena, debuted last month to negative reviews from the likes of the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter.
But a film’s commercial or critical success has little bearing on how Nevada gains from a project’s production. In its first year, the film tax program helped attract nine movies and television shows to Nevada, bringing more than $69 million in spending to the state.
The program was gutted in September while state lawmakers worked to lure electric car maker Tesla Motors to Nevada. SB94, a new bill sponsored by Ford that aims to breathe life back into the program, unanimously passed the Senate on April 15 and is now headed to the Assembly.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development is expected to release a full audit of the film tax credit program in the coming weeks.