OBSERVE AND REPORT
* (out of 5)
April 10, 2009
Seth Rogen as RONNIE BARNHARDT
Ray Liotta as DETECTIVE HARRISON
Michael Pena as DENNIS
Anna Faris as BRANDI
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Jody Hill
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
When I first saw the trailers for “Observe and Report,” like most other people did, I thought it looked eerily similar to the January hit “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” After all, both are about a portly security guard at a mall who is infatuated with a pretty girl who also works at the mall. The stories both also feature an overbearing mother and a side story of the mall cop trying to solve a crime at the mall.
But don’t get sucked in by the similarities. “Observe and Report” is nothing like “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.” At least “Paul Blart” was an enjoyable flick to a certain degree. Sure, it was juvenile. Sure, it was cheesy. Sure, it was nothing more than an excuse to show a fat guy falling down a lot. If it were a rock song, I’d say that it has a beat and you can dance to it.
“Observe and Report” is an entirely different creature altogether. If “Paul Blart” was a chubby but loveable friend of the family, then “Observe and Report” is its mentally unbalanced, just-out-of-prison, suicidal older brother.
Seth Rogen and Jody Hill’s version of a mall cop comedy involves Rogen as Ronnie Barnhardt, a man suffering from bipolar disorder who takes his job as head of mall security extremely seriously. When a minor crime spree hits his mall in the form of some late-night robberies and a daytime flasher, Ronnie launches his own internal investigation. He’s also trying to get in the pants of Brandi (Anna Faris), a young and pretty – if not vacuous and stuck up – girl behind the perfume counter. When a real detective is called in to look into the crimes, Ronnie sees this as a challenge.
If this plot synopsis sounds a bit haphazard, don’t blame me. This is the disjointed, stunted story development that is handed down in “Observe and Report.” Events randomly happen throughout the film, not connecting with any other event. It’s as if the characters are wandering through this movie in a drunken stupor, doing whatever they feel like with no consequence to other characters or the plot itself.
Part of the point of this film is that the characters are all wretched people with no self respect and completely horrible personalities. I like a good dysfunctional comedy, but this sort of this just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Writer/director Jody Hill seems to think that throwing oodles of profanity in a film and just aiming to offend and shock is what good comedy is made of. If this is his version of comedy, give me “Paul Blart” any day of the week. That’s not a great film, but it has more heart, coherence and semblance of story than the cinematic train wreck that is “Observe and Report.”
I will admit that I did laugh at some moments in the film. There are some very funny lines, mind you. However, the dark despair of the characters is too much to wade through to make the movie watchable.
The entirety of “Observe and Report” is barely coherent. On one hand, it seems that Hill is trying to tell a goofy story laced with raunchiness. But other times, it’s hard to believe he expects the audience to see his characters as anyone you can root for.
For example, Ronnie’s infatuation with Brandi leads him to a nicer girl who also works in the mall. It seems that Hill wants us to cheer him on as our hero, but Ronnie is such a repulsive slob going as far to get Brandi roaring drunk and jump her bones while she’s covered in vomit. Sure, this has a little bit of funny for the shock value, but it just made me hate the character.
To make things work in this film, he throws as many jokes as he can against the wall – and drops as many f-bombs as he and the actors can muster – in order to get a laugh. These scenes can be mildly humorous at times, but they are poorly written, pale imitations of a Kevin Smith script, without the charm.
What terrifies me about this movie is that if it’s a success, then Hollywood bosses will be clambering to release the next mall cop movie… and if that happens, woe to the American cinema scene.