BUY IT FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: None. Bare as a flasher’s dick, save for trailers for Terminator: Salvation, Trick R Treat, The Hangover, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and Orphan.
Rogen + Rent-A-Cop + Black Comedy = Fun
Director: Jody Hill
Cast: Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, Michael Peña, Ray Liotta, Collette Wolfe
Forest Ridge Mall security guard Ronnie Barnhardt receives his call to action in the form of a chubby flasher. Hilarity, substance abuse, and whipping of asses ensues.
You could say 2009 was a good year for mall cops in cinema. The first, most egregious example being Paul Blart: Mall Cop, a presumably paint-by-the-numbers “Fat guy falls down, goes boom, people laugh” slapstick that was more than likely enjoyed by many folks who managed to briefly turn to the screen and watch a bit of the movie at some point during their vicious in-theater dry-hump-a-thon. And I’m sure that Kevin James stole everyone’s heart as the mustachioed, tubby Blart.
But fuck that movie.
Jody Hill’s Observe and Report is an odd beast. Initially advertised as a Blart-esque jaunt starring Seth Rogen as Head of Mall Security Ronnie Barnhardt, O&R ended up being another vicious, jet-black comedy from the likes of Hill, whose widely-recognized work with Danny McBride on The Foot Fist Way and the HBO series Eastbound and Down shares an equally mean thematic heft. Unfortunately, many viewers seem to be turned off by Hill’s brand of mean-spirited comedy – one could argue that most comedy needs to have a hint of meanness – but for some reason the abrasiveness of the characters seems to hit a raw nerve with a lot of people, especially those expecting something more Apatow-flavored. And Observe and Report is no slouch when it comes to meanness.
Seth Rogen’s Megaman fetish proved to be a little much for Ms. Faris.
Spoilers to follow.
Between the hotly-debated is-it-or-isn’t-it date rape scene, the generally dysfunctional and somewhat dumb characters, full-frontal nudity, and Barnhardt’s bizarrely deft explosions of violence throughout the movie, Observe and Report seems intent on bucking all expectations, and doing it well. Hill and Rogen let you see just enough of Barnhardt to where you think you either want to pity or like the guy, and then they pull back and show you some odd tic or a character bit that makes you realize that maybe Barnhardt’s not all there. The most obvious parallel for this movie is Taxi Driver, with both Bickle and Barnhardt’s characters veering on “just unhinged enough”, and the aforementioned parallel has been drawn many times before in post-release discussions, even down to the constantly-debated “is it a violent fantasy” question.
But, just like the ending to Taxi Driver, it’s been argued that there’s no reason that Barnhardt couldn’t have done any of this – there are plenty of weird, disconnected people who seem borderline dumb or just switched off somehow, yet also happen to be able to kick some ass. However, so many people seem to want to argue the contrary that it makes one wonder if we as a culture just can’t wrap our heads around the idea that sometimes, the people that we expect to protect us or the people that we idolize and hold up as heroes just might be fundamentally fucked up or sick somehow, or even subject to the same malaise and dysfunction that most of us deal with every day.
“I LOVE THE KFC FAMOUS BOWL, I SWEAR!”
Of course, Rogen only pulls a small amount of weight here, as the supporting cast goes above and beyond expectations for a movie that’s been advertised as a Rogen spectacle first and foremost. Michael Peña, Aziz Ansari, the woefully underrated Anna Faris, and Ray Liotta all put in great performances that rival Rogen’s for scene-stealing, especially Peña. Having only seen him as Angelic Latino in the execrable, seriously fucking insultingly terrible Crash, I was surprised to find myself cracking up more at him than Rogen, especially after his character’s uproarious and slightly disturbing “twist scene”. Ansari’s slightly underused here, but to great effect – his few minutes of screen time opposite Rogen are pants-pissingly funny. Faris is great as the pretty yet vacant cosmetics girl who is the binge-drinking, pill-popping apple of Barnhardt’s eye, and Liotta brings some of his best work since NARC (wish I was kidding – work more, Liotta!) playing an often hilarious foil to Barnhardt and his ego.