Friday, April 24, 2009

Observe and Report

Imagine if Travis Bickle had an annoying, not too bright younger cousin. Now you have Ronnie Barnhardt, our mall-cop hero of the unapologetic Observe and Report.

Ronnie (Seth Rogen) is a loser and then some. He roams the halls of a mall as head of security, taking his job way too seriously. When a recurring flasher shows his goods to Ronnie’s sweetheart, ditzy makeup girl Brandi (Anna Faris), Ronnie is out for blood.

But don’t think of this as a revenge picture, more like a satirical character study of an immature, bi-polar man-child, trying to make up for his inadequacies. Ronnie barks orders at the coworkers who worship him, repeatedly tells the cops how they aren’t doing their jobs, hits kids in the head with skateboards, watches his drunk-ass mom hit on his friends, and so on.

You have to respect the movie on some level for never selling out. Brandi is a self-absorbed bitch; we know it and Ronnie knows it. But the movie never has any intention of transforming her. Even after she bangs another guy (after hooking up with Ronnie) the movie doesn’t try to make the bad girl grow a heart.

For most of the film, I smiled at the jokes and even laughed out loud a few times (mostly at Ronnie’s mom, played brilliantly by Celia Weston), but then it all went to hell. There is a shocking sequence when Ronnie’s best friend (Crash’s Michael Peña) shows his true colors. It’s an amusing drug-filled montage that goes way over the top, never letting the film regain itself. From that point on, the movie plays out much like Pineapple Express did: exasperated, unrealistic action scenes that seem misplaced in the movie we’ve been watching.

The performances are what you expect. Rogen plays what we’ve seen him play six times already, as does Faris. Ray Liotta has some fun as the lead detective on the case, even Danny McBride (star of director Jody Hill’s TV show Eastbound and Down) shows up for an amusing cameo. I won’t recommend the film it for its merit, God no, but I will admit it is a balls-out comedy that couldn’t care less about your feelings.

Oh, and I do mean balls out quite literally. C+

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