I hit the local red box this weekend and brought home the double-feature of Gran Torino and Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
I'll often mix it up like that.
Torino was a tour de force, note-perfect. It struck me that the script and plot are very straight-ahead, much like a stage play or short story, and if you stop at any moment to think about it after the first reel, you see the ending coming very plainly. But it doesn't matter, because the execution was so very good. This movie held my young sons with a vise-grip on their attention. Might make a good Fathers Day movie.
As for Blart, well, your expectations are low when you sit down to watch a comedy version of Die Hard in a mall. But Blart does share one thing with Gran Torino: Note-perfect execution, and a star (Kevin James) that takes the character all the way with complete commitment. To paraphrase Ebert, you don't compare movies to each other, to be fair, you compare the movie to itself, how well does it do what it set out to do.
I saw Gran Torino too recently. Clint Eastwood portrayed a character that so reminded me of my recently departed Grandpa Izzy. He was a quiet man who staying in the background, letting my grandmother do most of the talking. He was the fix-it guy, and could teach anyone how to install a new light fixture, build a deck or repair a leaky faucet. And he had a basement full of tools.
It was an enjoyable film, emotional. Emotional is good if done right.