‘Observe’ Seth Rogen’s dark side
April 22, 2009
Filed under Entertainment
Producers must think it’s the year of the mall cop. “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” was a huge success with a fatty rent-a-cop living in his own deluded world, protecting his so-called territory. In “Observe and Report,” another fatty rent-a-cop does the same thing except in a completely different manner. The former offers wholesome fun for the family, the latter is dark, sinister and pushes the envelope for the comedic genre.
Seth Rogen stars as Ronnie Barnhardt, a bi-polar head security officer that is on assignment to find the mysterious flasher that is perverting his mall. When his dream girl Brandi (Anna Faris) is part of the victim list and head detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) is now on the investigation, Barnhardt becomes insulted and jealous. With the help of his team, who includes his right hand man (Michael Pena), a couple of expendable twins (John and Matt Yuan) and a student-in-training (Jesse Plemons), Barnhardt will do whatever it takes to find his flasher.
The movie’s set-up seems typical of most lovable loser films. There’s a man that is socially awkward, nowhere near the norm of what an ordinary person would do and act. He gets presented with a situation and his lovable charm will come through and win the audience over at the end of the film. That’s “Paul Blart.” This is nothing like “Observe and Report.”
This should be a credit to Rogen. He has always been the lovable loser, ranging from his initial lead in “Knocked Up” or the mistaken action hero in “Pineapple Express.” But here, there is no empathy for Ronnie. He’s loud, obnoxious and delusional to what he can and can’t do. But there is also a certain sincerity and human element that surrounds Ronnie. He is someone that deserves to get beaten up, but at least he’s true to himself. Like Adam Sandler in “Punch Drunk Love,” Rogen shows that he does have some depth in the acting department.
The rest of the cast is effective. Faris is good as the bimbo in distress. But then again, she does that in every film. Liotta comes in with his “Goodfellas” demeanor and is scary and hilarious. It’s also nice to see Pena do something else other than serious dramas like “World Trade Center” and “Crash.”
As comedy is concerned, it’s really dark. If one is coming in expecting to laugh out loud the entire time, then they will really be disappointed. Instead, if they come in with the notion that this is a black comedy, they will have a greater appreciation for the film. Director Jody Hill made sure that the film was way over the top with the violence and profanity, but always kept the serious tone throughout.
Speaking of profanity, it is used abruptly and constantly every other minute. There hasn’t been this many f-bombs since “The Departed.” There are also a lot of racial epithets towards Middle Easterns. People will get put off by this and there are times that using this language seems unnecessary, but it wouldn’t have been true to the film spirit if the f-word was limited.
As ridiculously stupid as the plot sounds, Hill effectively points out the way Americans think. This is an age where violence is expected and accepted. Nudity, on the other hand, isn’t. Especially when it’s a part of the male anatomy. Nobody is comfortable with that. So when a flasher shows off his dick to women at the mall, everybody goes berserk. But as the ending will prove, violence is more accepted then nudity, even if it is coming from a psychotic cop.
Without the constant cursing and violence, the entire purpose of this film would be lost. Hill wanted to show how trivial nudity should be in comparison to violence, in a dark and uneasy tone. With the help of Rogen’s best performance to date, “Observe and Report” does just that.