Who knew mall security personnel were so much of an in thing in 2009? First Kevin James brought us Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Now Seth Rogen dons the blue uniform and tin badge for Observe and Report. Whereas James’ portrayal of a wannabe cop was very innocent and PG in nature, Rogen’s characterization is perverse and dark. And very unstable.
As is par for course of a Seth Rogen flick (even though he had no hand in writing this movie), there is also plenty of dopey, adolescent humor and vulgarity available to satisfy even the most stubborn of cravings.
Rogen is Ronnie Barnhardt, the head security guard at the Forest Ridge Mall and, as it turns out, a man with more than a few screws loose. When a flasher shows his junk to the girl he adores, Brandi (Anna Faris), he springs into action, determined to win her affection and show a local police detective, Harrison (Ray Liotta), that he has what it takes to be a bonafide cop. Of course things are stacked against Ronnie.
Brandi can’t stand him — hell, no one at the mall can, except Nell (Collette Wolfe), a lonely girl working at one of the coffee stands. Harrison thinks he is a buffoon and every step of the way lets Ronnie know it. During the first act of Observe and Report, Ronnie oafs and antagonizes his way through and along the way offers up a fair amount of sophomoric laughs (his spiteful encounter with Saddamn, a guy running a kiosk, is one of the more brainless and funnier ones).
During the second act, he gets the last laugh as he transforms into a Travis Bickle type character, even though I didn’t have many watching the transformation.
To start, he hooks up with Brandi in a way that will offend most everyone with any morals. On this, I’ll agree with Rogen and say there is nothing about the scene I saw that glorified date rape — the punchline at the end of the scene hits the nail on the head (and I don’t recall the same outcry when Kids hit the theaters). Getting past that, the rest of Observe and Report spirals into a mishmash of violence. Ronnie rages against half the police force in one drawn out scene. Then in another, he beats the shit out of Nell’s bosses. In yet another, he over uses force while trying to apprehend a criminal. None of these moments are explained clearly enough (are they supposed to make Ronnie appear as a hero?) nor are they particularly funny to watch enfold.
Director, Jody Hill, had good intentions I’m sure, but the material he presents gets thoroughly lost in translation. It’s no fault of the actors. Rogen, taking on a role that has a darker side to it (even though it isn’t explored very well) carries himself well. I have an affinity for Anna Faris, but she is sorely underused in the picture. Ray Liotta brings good straight-laced drama to the picture, but, unfortunately, it usually doesn’t marry up well with the comedy trying to take place at the same time.
Final observation and report on Observe and Report: It starts off promising and then inexplicably falls into a dark and dank abyss from which it never emerges. You’re better off watching the other rent-a-cop flick mentioned at the beginning of this review for your laughs (even though that too could have been so much funnier).