(Cue The Good, the Bad and the Ugly theme)
Since Paul Blart: Mall Cop ending up being released a few months before Observe and Report, every review of the latter must now mention the former. This is no exception. No I don’t believe one was ripping off the other, because although they are both centered around two pudgy mall cops with a messiah complex, the similarities firmly end there.
It’s extremely rare these days to say the a movie actually shocked me, and I have to give Observe and Report credit for making my jaw hang open at more moments than I ever thought possible in a movie.
Going in, I expected a foul-mouthed Apatow-ish mall cop adventure, with a misunderstood but lovable anti-hero as per usual. Leaving, I thought the film must have been made by Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino’s love child that they left in a dumpster after birth.
Observe and Report is one of the blackest comedies I’ve seen in ages. But it’s definitely more black than comedy, with the jokes being less about clever writing and more about date rape and male genitalia. I think the funniest part of the movie was turning to watch my friends’ reactions as Seth Rogen chased a fully nude man through a mall, his business and flubber flopping in the wind in perfect harmony.
One of these two used this movie to break out of their status as typecast. The other did not.
But aside from the shock and awe campaign that puts Observe and Report way past any standards of decency, the film does do a number of things right, and frankly that’s something I was surprised to see.
Mall head of security Ronnie Barnhardt has to be my favorite Seth Rogen role in quite some time, and considering he’s in a new movie every time I turn around, that actually is pretty significant. He’s not goofy and lovable, he’s a complete and utter sociopath, truly convinced that he’s “the only thing standing between the light and the darkness.” And just when you think you have him figured out as a hapless, psychopathic loser, he busts out a nightstick and beats down a gang of drug dealers like he’s Tony Jaa.
Rogen is supported by a great cast including Ray Liotta as asshole detective, Harrison, Friday Night Light’s Jesse Plemons as guard-in-training, Charles and Collette Wolfe as the adorable coffee booth babe, Nell. And of course we have Ana Farris doing what Ana Farris does best, creating a pitch perfect caricature of the self-absorbed, idiotic blonde girl we all want to bang, but only if she doesn’t talk before or afterward.
It’s strange because I didn’t find Observe and Report to be particularly funny, but that didn’t stop me from liking it. Maybe it was the elaborate slow motion shots with spaghetti western music playing in the background, maybe it was Seth Rogen fighting like a chubby comedian possessed, maybe it was Ana Farris’ cleavage, but I walked away thinking the movie had beaten my expectations, even if they were dragging on the floor when I first went in.
3 out of 5 stars
“**** you, Paul Blart!”