On DVD: Observe and Report


Somewhere between “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” and “Observe and Report,” there has to be at least a decent movie about a mall security guard. Or maybe Hollywood should just forget about this cliché-ripe “genre” altogether.

“Observe and Report” is the latest film to shove a tubby comedian (Seth Rogen) into a mock police officer’s uniform and endow him with an exaggerated sense of justice and self- importance. Ronnie Barnhardt is a gun-loving ignoramus who turns everything into a joke and believe it or not is surrounded by even less competent and pathetic co-workers. Their livelihood is threatened when a flasher begins visually assaulting people in the parking lot, namely Ronnie’s crush, Brandi (Anna Faris) the shallow cosmetics girl, and the police (fronted by Ray Liotta) are brought in to handle the mess.

Ronnie is a pretty poorly executed character to begin with. By far Rogen’s worst performance, Ronnie’s idiot charms are not funny and he doesn’t come off as lovable as creator Jody Hill intended. Hill’s previous morally questionable protagonist, a karate instructor in “The Foot Fist Way” — his debut film — played by Danny McBride, was far more successful at earning sympathy despite an abundance of character flaws. McBride belongs in the role (he was reduced to a cameo) but Rogen got the part for having a bigger name.

It’s actually kind of sad: Ronnie not only has big dreams for himself, but he has a history of psychosis and a temperamental moral compass that says it’s okay to have sex with a girl who’s drunk and vomiting but that it’s not cool to steal from the mall. That’s a hint as to how this comedy that purports itself as a run-of-the-mill ends up rearing its explicit, politically incorrect and shockingly dark head to an unsuspecting audience. It’s pretty messed up and Hill wanted it that way, leading us in with a stereotypical cast of misfits and deadpan humor only to redirect us in a way that simply doesn’t jive.

At one point when Ronnie’s at his lowest, he turns to his friend Dennis, a Mexican security guard with a lisp, who says he knows exactly what Ronnie needs, which is hardcore drug usage of every kind. Conceptually, it’s funny, but it’s just kind of disturbing when you actually see it. Snorting cocaine and injecting heroine can only be so funny — I know, who’d have thought? This is one of many ineffective soundtrack montages.

“Observe and Report” was supposed to be a politically incorrect comedy about what happens when your ridiculousness and reality are forced to confront each other, but the message I took away was that under no circumstances, ever, should you stop taking your medication if you’re bipolar unless a doctor says it’s okay. If you do, you’ll start doing drugs, violently commit acts of civil disobedience and make the cute girl at the coffee counter who you’re too dumb to notice cry her eyes out. If only we could be so wise.

1.5/5 Stars

“Observe and Report”
Written and Directed by: Jody Hill
Starring: Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Ray Liotta


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