The Good: A dozen laughs
The Bad: Violent, Poor acting, NOT funny, Stupid and predictable plot, Pacing
The Basics: Seth Rogen strikes out big time with Observe And Report, a scattered mall cop movie packed with violence and foul language, most of the rest is shown in the trailer.
I have been accused - not unjustly - of writing reviews that many find to be long, verbose, or - as I prefer to consider them - thorough. Sometimes, though, I encounter something that is so simple - usually something I loathed - that I find I can use an economy of language in describing it. After all, some things just plain stink and while there were idle moments in the film Observe And Report where I considered rating it as simply “below average,” by the time it was over, it was a clear "Avoid It" type movie. And no matter what others might write about it being a "guys" movie, it is equally unsatisfying to men and women (my fiancé and I hated it equally!).
The last film I saw set in a mall (having thus far missed Paul Blart, Mall Cop) was the Kevin Smith film Mallrats (reviewed here!). I am one of the rare reviewers who enjoyed that film more than Clerks. Still, based on the previews for Observe And Report, I suspected it might be on the same caliber as Mallrats. It was not. In fact, Observe And Report is so poorly made and such a poor representation of humor that about all it has in common with Mallrats is that both are movies and both have most of their action set in a shopping mall.
Officer Ronnie Barnhardt is the head of mall security at the Forest Ridge Mall, lusting at a distance for Brandi, a worker at the cosmetics counter. One morning, a flasher appears at the mall and terrorizes fifteen women, who lodge complaints and leave Ronnie feeling like he has a chance to distinguish himself by catching the culprit and thus winning Brandi's affections. When Brandi is flashed, Ronnie squares off with Conway police detective Harrison, who becomes increasingly frustrated by Ronnie's meddling with his case.
As Ronnie tries to track down both the flasher and a master thief, he applies for the police academy and pursues Brandi. Harrison resists Ronnie's aid in both cases and soon works actively to prevent Ronnie from joining the squad, including dropping him off in one of the worst neighborhoods in the city to leave him for dead. When Ronnie is betrayed by one of his own, he is seemingly left with nothing and returns to the mall a broken man.
Observe And Report is not just a stupid comedy, it is a meandering mix of plotlines and humor that uncomfortably mixes with over-the-top violence to create a movie that is fragmented, poorly assembled and feels like it takes about three hours to get to its conclusion. Legendary Pictures, which released The Dark Knight and Watchmen has its first big dud on its hands with Observe And Report, which seems to be trading entirely on Seth Rogen's current stardom. Like Rogen's other film, Pineapple Express (reviewed here!), Observe And Report mixes crude humor and incredible amounts of violence into the film.
The problem - one of many - with Observe And Report is that so much of the movie does not fit. First, almost all of the jokes in the film are in the trailers for the movie. As has become my habit, I counted the laughs. I laughed only twelve times in the hour and a half (it seriously felt like twice or three times as long) and I smiled an additional eighteen times. This is a pretty pathetic ratio, especially when one considers that one of those laughs came from a joke in the closing credits.
Second, too much of the film feels like it is in there for the trailer. There are a ton of quick shots away from Ronnie or other main characters that make stupid jokes basically as visual gags that have little or nothing to do with the main plot (usually involving Michael Pena as Dennis and almost all of which were in the preview trailer). I'm not sure why Michael Pena shaking his head from side to side is supposed to be considered funny, but the film cuts away to have him do it a couple of times.
Third, Observe And Report does not have a strong enough main plot to hold itself together, so it throws in all sorts of ridiculous, stupid and often violent subplots to fill for the full movie-length. So, more than just about Ronnie trying to catch a flasher, the movie includes subplots dealing with: a thief, Ronnie entering the police academy, Ronnie interacting with Nell a cute coffee seller who has a broken leg, Ronnie pursuing Brandi (if I were feeling charitable, I suppose I could lump those two together as "stupid romantic subplot"), reckless drug use, Ronnie's relationship with his drunk mother and pointless police brutality.
The result is a movie that is often more violent than it is funny and Observe And Report does such things as use almost the same shot from Watchmen where a person breaks another person's arm on screen. The movie is an "R" rating for obvious reasons revolving around male nudity (the flasher is pretty well exposed constantly in the last act) and language. One whole segment of the movie has Ronnie exchanging "fuck-you's" with a Middle Eastern small business owner. Large segments, like the ride along with Harrison, are not funny at all and become something that is not only violent, but disturbing.
Anna Faris's acting as Brandi appears mostly to be appearing on screen with her mouth hanging agape. Seth Rogen performs his usual deadpan character, this time with short hair (ooh!). But the real let down for acting was from Michael Pena. How someone goes from being in one of the best movies of all time - Crash (reviewed here!) - and illustrating some genuinely powerful emotions in convincing ways to being a terrible parody of a gay mall cop might well be evidence of the existence of god. In which case, god is deeply vindictive and Michael Pena has done something to seriously cheese off the divine.
As for us mortals, Observe And Report offers nothing of value to any of us, not even the few laughs it has.
For other works with Celia Weston, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Knight And Day
For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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