“Observe and Report:” Rampant stupidity
Don’t shoot the messenger: R-rated comedies have made a roaring comeback, much to the delight of their primarily young adult male audience and their profiteering movie studios. No fewer than six of the genre finished in the top 50 box office successes of 2008; opening weekend box office records have been broken, and even Oscar has taken note. And while each has included a certain level of crass humor and unbridled determination to push boundaries, the success of each was in no small part a result of a tangible level of creativity and execution.
With “Observe and Report,” the genre hits rock bottom. The content is offensive, as is the level of filmmaking in general.
How bad is “Observe and Report?” It makes the almost identically themed “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” (a surprise early season hit), seem not only angelic but profoundly multi-layered and sophisticated by comparison.
In “Observe and Report” Seth Rogen, a teddy bearish darling in a couple of recent R-rated hits (“Knocked Up,” “Superbad”), plays Ronnie, a 20-something security guard with delusions of becoming a police officer. Any previous hints at Rogen’s acting abilities are completely erased by both the shallow, repetitively mean-spirited tone of his character and his sheer inability to offer any authenticity in the role. We get that he is not a sympathetic character; an oversized ego dropping profanities every other word. But every line feels contrived, as if the filmmakers wanted to make him a parody but weren’t sure what the word meant.
The same holds true for co-star Anna Faris, who plays cosmetic counter girl Brandi, the object of Ronnie’s perverse affection. Faris is again at her one-note limit, willing to subject herself to any level of humiliation for a laugh. So drunk and jacked up on borrowed meds she throws up while being violated-this is comedy?
“Pushing boundaries”-a now meaningless clich? to begin with-is one thing. But here it implies that such reaching comes devoid of intelligence or creativity. “Black comedy” still implies some level of humor. “Satire” implies some level of wit. “Observe and Report” demonstrates disdain for its audience and its actors, especially talented veterans Ray Liotta and Celia Weston, whose presence prevents a totally uninterrupted vomit reflex.
The climactic chase scene, which features an obese, overcoat-wearing flasher running through the mall, the camera fixated on his grotesque equipment for what feels like hours, not minutes, is particularly disgusting and, just as reprehensible, predictable.
Sadly, someone spent $25 million making this movie and thought audiences would be entertained by brainless, purposeless stupidity. One can’t help but think of all the independent filmmakers craving a few million in capital to make films worthy of their talent.
What is truly offensive is that a studio would say no to dozens of worthwhile projects and green light this garbage.
Rated R for pervasive language, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content and violence.