Observe and Report, 2/5


Rated R. Click here to view the trailer.

This is one nutjob of a movie and it desperately needs to put down the latest issue of Soldier of Fortune magazine get back on its meds.
Seth Rogen stars as Ronnie Barnhardt, a bi-polar, washed out rent-a-cop at the local mall who takes his job waaaaaaay too seriously. And not in a fun way. We’re talking obey-me-or-I’ll-take-you-to-Sbarro-and-shove-your-face-in-the-pizza-oven kind of seriously. He desperately wants to become a real cop but there’s no real need, since his current gig provides him plenty of opportunities to draw his sidearm and pick on minorities. He has no problem with vigilantism. At one point, the cops are called in to remove an off-his-meds Ronnie from the mall and he takes them all on as if he were Samson with a mag light.

The plot centers on Ronnie’s efforts to capture a “serial flasher,” but the movie is more about his descent into rage-filled madness. I’m told his character is very similar to Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, but – embarrassed as I am to admit it – I’ve never seen it. He kind of reminded me of Kurtz from Heart of Darkness/Apocolypse Now.

There are two polar opposite love stories (sort of) in the movie, one with cute coffee shop girl Nell (Collette Wolf) and another with the heavily made up and foul mouthed Brandy (Anna Faris). Nell has an utterly inexplicable crush on Ronnie, but he’s so blinded by lust for Brandy that he can’t see it.

Director Jody Hill relishes in making the audience uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure he meant the movie to be this way, but this is not the movie I meant to see. Observe and Report has been marketed as a comedy and but there are no real laughs in the film. The jokes that are there made me feel decidely uncomfortable. Because the cast includes Seth Rogen, I was expecting a little more of an Apatow flavor, which made the lack of any joy whatsoever all the more jarring. The best way I can describe it is cognitive dissonance. Even the poster and trailer are misleading. They should show Seth Rogen beating a 12-year-old into a coma with a skate-board then licking the blood off the splinters and shooting up more heroin. I came in expecting a dark comedy, but I think they forgot to include the comedy part and threw in a few extra bushels of dark.

Even though I didn’t like the characters (accept for poor, sweet Nell), the actors did what they were asked to do and did it well. Rogen will never be an Oscar-winner, but he did an admirable job playing the playing a dark, disturbing part. Michael Pena was enjoyable as fellow mall cop Dennis, and Aziz Ansari (Tom from Parks and Recreation) was the humor apex of the movie. Most reviews I’ve read raved about Anna Faris, but here she just creeped me out. I suppose since that’s what her character is supposed to do, you could call it a success. But why would you want to?

Observe and Report is a kind of brilliant, but not any kind of brilliant I want to “get” or be around. It’s mean, depressing, nihilistic, raunchy and doesn’t mind slapping you in the face just when you think its heart might be softening a little. Boo.

Maybe I’m losing any appreciation for “art” in my old age. If so, fine. I can be happier without it. I’m sure there’s a crowd than can love and appreciate it, but it ain’t me, babe.

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