Kevin James takes latest ‘Mall Cop’ to Las Vegas

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Considering Kevin James’ “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” debuted with nearly $32 million on its opening weekend in 2009 — going on to make more than $146 million in the U.S. market (and over $183 million worldwide) — it is no surprise a sequel to the hit movie is opening Friday.

When the actor phoned the other day, it seemed fair to ask if “Vegas has yet recovered” from all the antics James and his “Blart” team might have inflicted on Sin City.

The former “King of Queens” star chuckled. “I got to tell you —  I don’t think I have recovered yet!”

However, James, who also co-wrote the script for the “Blart” sequel, added that heading to the gambling mecca “was a nice change for us. It was a great platform. We needed to raise the stakes in this movie. It was cool.”

The actor/comedian and his production team also had to do a bit of selling in order to convince the owner of a  famous Las Vegas hotel and casino it would be OK for them to film there.

The owner in question was Steve Wynn and the property was his iconic Wynn resort. James said, “[Steve Wynn] had never before allowed to put a movie in his hotel before. The reason was pretty simple. He didn’t want to do it, because the content of some of the movies that were made in Vegas previously weren’t what he wanted to have made in his hotel. So he never was looking forward to doing anything like that in his property.”

Yet, James & Company got lucky when they learned Wynn loved the first “Paul Blart” film.

“He told us, ‘If you can do a family movie here — a film where parents will be comfortable about bringing their kids [to see it], then go for it!’ . . . We got his blessing because he realized that is what we’re all about, making family-friendly comedies,” said James.

There is a lot of physical comedy in the movie — even more so than in the first one — so it seemed likely James might have suffered more than a fair share of bumps and bruises.

“Every time we write these [movies], I get carried away,” James said. “They keep getting bigger and more physical and more funny — never thinking to myself, ‘Hey Kevin! There’s going to come a day when you’re going to have to shoot this, and you’re going to actually have to do this stuff!’

“So that was a little scary,” added James, but he also said, “It was definitely worth the pain when we saw the final product. Plus, my fans look for me to deliver physical comedy, and I didn’t want to disappoint them.”

For the entertainer and filmmaker, the overall concept of both “Paul Blart” films comes from the same germ of an idea: “I would spot these guys. I would see them — and not just mall cops — but auxiliary cops, security guards and anyone else who is in a position of authority without lethal weapons, expected to handle all kinds of crazy situations and scenarios.”

James said he has always been impressed by what those individuals have to tackle, given “they possibly do not have the skill set nor training for some of those jobs — they are just thrown in to it and told, ‘Do it!’

“It struck me that it’s got to be difficult for those guys on many occasions to have to jump in and take control. I often would think to myself, ‘How do these guys do it?’ They do everything from returning a lost child to their mother in a mall, to breaking up some pretty nasty and ugly fights and brawls that seem to be breaking out more and more in malls these days. It must often be crazy for those people.

“We just wanted to honor them in a way.”

Since “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” was set in Vegas, one had to ask James if he’s lucky at those ever-present gaming tables.

“Let me tell you. I remember the first time I ever did standup there. When you do comedy in Vegas, you usually work a week at a time. Now, I had never really gambled before, and when I got there I was like a wild kid. I was so excited about it.

“Unfortunately, I literally lost all my first week’s pay on the first night I was there. But that was the lesson I needed to learn. Because I was working for free for the rest of the week, and I went home with no money. I said to myself, ‘You cannot do this again.’ And I really have never gambled again after that.”

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