The success of some movies is easy to account for — maybe it’s star power, or good reviews, or the fandom associated with a popular franchise. Others benefit from appealing to niches or being released on slow weekends during which moviegoers have no better options. But, sometimes there’s another class of blockbuster whose grosses can’t be predicted by even the wisest of box-office sages. For example, who could possibly have anticipated Paul Blart: Mall Cop’s explosive, $39 million opening weekend? Certainly not Sony Pictures, who admitted in yesterday’s LA Times that they barely thought it’d make half that. And now, as their movie Segways speedily toward $100 million, it’s finally helped give a catchy name to all films with outsize profits and similarly awfulsome premises: Blarts.
So how does one identify a Blart? Sometimes they feature the Rock as an NFL star who unexpectedly becomes the father of an 8-year old and must, for some reason, perform ballet (The Game Plan, $90 million domestic). Others star Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy as members of the same biker gang (Wild Hogs, $168 million). Did your movie earn $94 million with a cast that included George Lopez as the voice of a dog (Beverly Hills Chihuahua), or $217 million, thanks to a trailer that featured computer-generated rodents eating their own poo (Alvin and the Chipmunks)? Congratulations — you Blarted! The only things Blarts usually share are family-friendliness, an inexplicably enormous gross, and a screenplay that seems like it was probably submitted on a dare (also, it helps if a participating actor publicly refers to it as a “piece of shit”).
Box-office analysts most often attribute the world-rocking success of Blarts to people’s need for escapism during an economic crisis. Really, though, they don’t know any better than anyone else what elevates just a normal, inane-sounding movie to full-fledged Blart status — Blart fans are as unpredictable as the wind. Why has Blartness eluded such films as Space Chimps or Hotel For Dogs? No one knows. What will the next Blart be? Impossible to say. Thanks to Mall Cop, though, when the next $200 million movie starring Ray Romano as a third grader, or a chimpanzee who becomes the secretary of agriculture, comes along, at least we’ll know what to call it.