Observe and Report
April 21, 2009 by Zack
Writer/director Jody Hill goes for dark humor, and it’s brazenly illustrated in this uber dark comedy that has a lot of similarities to his new HBO sitcom, “Eastbound & Down” which I think is a very promising show and I’m glad it’s being continued. Seth Rogen’s character, Ronny, is somewhat like EB&D’s “hero”, Kenny Powers. He is self-unaware, and a low life. But Rogen has more charm to him and has the ability to make you laugh with him, and Danny McBride’s approach to Kenny Powers is a little more cynical.
The film follows the misadventures of a rent-a-cop head of mall security, but not in the way “Paul Blart” did. This has a very different approach. Instead of Ronny being bumbling and stupid, he is focused and arrogant. He is determined to catch a pervert who’s been flashing people in a parking lot. He has a posse of mall security cops that are just caricatures but in a way they are amusing. The main interest is Ronny’s pursuit of not only being The Man of the mall, but also becoming a real police officer, and winning the heart of the perfume & make-up counter at a department store–resident glam slut, Brandi. Fortunately for me, Anna Farris actually plays down her role a bit. While her imposing “Look at how obnoxious I am because I’m being ironical!” demeanor is still distracting to me, she actually did get me to laugh a few times.
Once the pervert has done his deeds, a resident detective (Ray Liotta) comes into the story, and Ronny instantly resents him because he’s “taking over Ronny’s case”. He instantly makes the detective resent him, and the usual ensues: detective takes Ronny to place where Ronny should get killed, but Ronny doesn’t. Ronny gets himself into some trouble while trying to “defend” the mall, and since he has “mental issues”, he isn’t allowed to become a cop. Even his drunk mother, who stands by him the entire time, cannot help his situation. But Ronny does charm the heart of a counter girl at a fast food joint who gives him free coffee every day, even when he “should be paying for it”. There is a very good performance that may go overlooked but I want to point out Collette Wolfe who plays the counter girl Nell, has a scene that actually made me choke up a bit. I hope some scouts take note–she is very promising.
While the movie is dark, and at times a bit over-the-top, it does have its moments of sweetness. The film works overall. It’s not a masterpiece, and it’s not even as funny as it probably should be. There are some laugh out loud moments, but there is so much depravity going on that sometimes it’s hard to find the humor in it. In the end, it’s still enjoyable and I think Seth Rogen has proven again he can be a leading man and not just a side character. His acting ability has definitely grown.