While the easy comparison for Observe and Report would be to Paul Blart: Mall Cop, mainly due to its subject matter and setting, but to do so would be to disservice both films. Blart is a family film about an obese security guard who turns into John McClane when his mall is taken over by terrorists with skateboards. Observe and Report is Jody Hill’s dark look at a man with delusions of grandeur.
A better way to look at this film, instead of the darker version of Blart, is as an homage to Scorsese’s Taxi Driver with Seth Rogen in the Travis Bickle role. He’s Ronnie, head of security at a local mall. Ronnie has two problems that need solving: someone keeps robbing individual stories and there’s a flasher running around. The former is one he’s seemingly unconcerned with because the latter has influenced his obsession with slutty counter-girl Brandy (Anna Farris). It has also brought the presence of an actual police detective (Ray Liotta) who Ronnie views as a threat to his authority over the mall.
For Rogen this is a major leap outside his realm as a bumbling stoner. Ronnie isn’t a likable character; he’s someone with a bit of power who is delusional as to his standing in the world. Nothing about Ronnie is likable and Rogen turns off the charm for his role. This is a major departure and an interesting choice of roles. While he was back in the more familiar role in Funny People, Observe and Report is definitely a role that can change your perception of Rogen. This is not an Academy level performance but one that shows an expanded range, instead of Rogen merely playing a bumbling everyman.
For Hill he journeys to the same territory he explored with The Foot Fist Way, only the film is like that but a bit more refined, so to speak. Hill has grown as a film-maker immensely between his first and second films in terms of storytelling and pace. The film mines the crudest of blue humor and has some of the filthiest dialogue this decade (and that’s saying something), but Hill manages to make it work: including an amazingly crude exchange between Ronnie and one of the cart vendors.
Observe and Report is an especially dark film, managing to snuff out any of the positive light that comes out. For a comedy that elicits as many laughs as they one does Hill is confident enough in the material given to continue on despite the depths this film goes. Don’t go in expecting a happy film. And for a comedy, its happy ending (if one can call it that) is still somewhat depressing (and shockingly hilarious), yet despite it all it works on a number of levels.
Presented in a Dolby Digital format with a widescreen and full screen presentations, the film looks and sounds great. This is a film that doesn’t have a wide variety of color but has different shades of a handful that come through vividly.
With no extras, except for some trailers that play before allowing you to watch the film, Observe and Report is at worst a curiosity of a rental.
Warner Brothers presents Observe and Report. Written and Directed by Jody Hill. Starring Anna Farris, Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta. Running time: 86 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: September 29, 2009. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Jody Hill, Observe and Report, Ray Liotta, Seth Rogen