I’m not sure anyone was clamoring for “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” yet here it is.

The follow-up to the 2009 surprise hit that grossed more than $146 million is more of the same – which isn’t a good thing. This is a mindless series of failed gags, sprinkled with manipulative moments designed to tug at the heartstrings. There is absolutely no reason for its existence, and I wish I could somehow get my 90 minutes back.

In this installment, Paul Blart (Kevin James) heads to Las Vegas with his daughter Maya (Raini Rodriguez) for a mall security cop convention. While in Vegas, Blart stumbles upon a man named Vincent (Neal McDonough), who is in the midst of an elaborate heist to steal priceless works of art from the hotel.

And that’s about all that passes as a plot in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2,” although James and his co-writer Nick Bakay throw everything at the script to see if anything will stick.

You get a subplot where Maya is accepted to UCLA, but doesn’t want to tell Blart because she doesn’t want to leave him alone. You get a new love interest, well, sort of, in the form of the hotel concierge, which is meant to be a running joke but comes off really creepy.

James must clearly love this character, or else he needs money, because that has to be the only legitimate excuse why he would revisit this embarrassing sad sack. 

The only real winners are the actors from the first film who opted not to return and are quickly written out in the first five minutes.

If only I could have made my exit then as well.

Also in theaters

This week’s other major release, “Woman in Gold,” (B) was much more satisfying, a solid drama based on true events anchored by a really good performance from the reliable Helen Mirren.

She plays Maria Altman, a Jewish refugee who left her Austrian homeland during World War II looking to regain what she believes is rightfully hers – a portrait of her aunt that’s become a priceless artifact and the prize jewel of the Austrian government’s art collection. Altman enlists the help of a young attorney named Randol (Ryan Reynolds) to try to get back her family heirlooms, while coming to terms with the demons from her past.

Director Simon Curtis also directed the film “My Week With Marilyn” and he brings the same kind of laid-back style to “Woman in Gold.” This is a film where you feel like Curtis is only scratching the surface of the subject matter, but he entices the audience just enough to keep them interested.

Mirren anchors the film well, but Reynolds is a surprise – he holds his own and shows a little more range than we’ve seen from him before. He steps away from the smarmy persona he plays in most comedies and does quite well.

Tatiana Maslany is also good playing Maria in flashbacks. 

Those moments that capture Maria’s struggles tend to have a little more dramatic impact than the present-day material, which at times seem to skip over key moments that could have had a little more insight.

“Woman in Gold” may not quite reach gold level cinematic status, but it’s a firm silver medal finisher, thanks to the cast and the very intriguing story.

“Woman in Gold” is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief strong language and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.

— For Micheal Compton’s reviews of “Ex Machina” and “Adult Beginners,” visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/blogs/straight_outta_compton or on Twitter at twitter .com/mcompton428. Email him at mcompton@bgdailynews.com


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