Friday, April 10, 2009

Movie Review: Observe and Report - Yep, it IS as problematic as it looks.

Can Seth Rogen's 'Bear Man' charm can carry this demented flick?

The trailer of Observe and Report, staring Seth Rogen, might have led some of us to expect an edgy dark comedy. Some of us may have hoped for a strong character driven picture that is at the same time a little awkwardly disturbing and definitely disturbingly funny. Some of us, even like Seth Rogen! But, we were expecting too much, perhaps, because Observe is just disturbing. While Ronnie, (Rogen) as the head of mall security obsessed with catching the mall’s repeat offender flasher, is an intriguing tribute to Travis Bickle, the film’s few humorous moments are overshadowed by an unfunny vulgarity combined with a total lack character growth. Observe, with its crass immaturity on top of a plot that just goes wherever the heck it wants to without much regard to actual storytelling, isn’t even saved by the numerous and very snarky musical montages that pepper the movie. Imagine that.

Observe prefers shock over wit with offensive forays into mental illness, gun violence and that fuzzy line that separates date rape from NOT date rape(yeah, what every comedy needs!). Rogen seems to be loudly rejecting the jerky loser or clueless dork roles he’s accustomed to for one that is so unbelievable, dangerously idiotic and delusional it’s a little hard to imagine anyone putting him in charge of ditch-digging, forget the security of a 2 bit mall in Anywhere, America. Ronnie, bi-polar and still living in his childhood bedroom at his alcoholic mother’s house, is just too sad to laugh at or with. His few triumphs should be cheer-worthy moments, but since they are also extremely violent and/or repulsive, I found myself just waiting for Ronnie to end up seriously injured or dead so that the movie would end or take a turn in another direction.

Ironically the bright spots in the movie are when the character does ring true and we can see Ronnie’s microscopic step forward as he takes command of his life and dares to go after his dreams, but then we are reminded that he’s probably a sociopath and it just gets sad again. There are also some depressing but pretty funny heart to hearts with his drunken mother played by veteran character actress Celia Weston worth noting. Ray Liotta gets to yell and be creepy, which is always fun and Anna Faris is there too doing what she does. Faris as the beauty counter girl, flasher victim and object of Ronnie’s desires, is grotesquely stereotypical as the dumb blonde and not really comedic, but more like watching a particularly devastating train wreck. Her overdrawn lips and Barbie like movements were simply entrancing. So wrong, but I couldn’t look away. The rest of the mall security team provides a little amusement too from Dennis (Michael Pena) as Ronnie "Right Hand Man" and the Yuen twins' (Yuan twins) understated idiocy to Ronnie's boss who delivers the only sensible line of the movie, "Are you fucking retarded, Ronnie?

Director, Jody Hill’s (Fist Foot Way) self-indulgent and grossly shallow Observe is a puzzling spectacle of the abject fantasies of a seriously ill man-child and calls into question the motivations of the movie itself. What exactly is the point of a tale where consequences are nonexistent, particularly after actions that would surely mean a whole lot of jail time for our “hero”? But, honestly, these tasteless acts, morally questionable motives and lack of minimally sympathetic characters would totally fine, if the film were funny and if the story worked. Sadly, those things just don't come together in the end.

Observe and Report
Good set up and concept, but gross, violent, and only mildly amusing at times. Overall sort of disgusting and unsatisfying.
opens tonight everywhere
86 min (but feels WAY longer)
Dir., Writ,: Jody Hill
Starring: Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta, Anna Faris, Michael Pena
Rated “R” for about 120 “F” bombs, lots of guns and some blood, date rape with a punch line from a semi-conscious chick that is supposed to make it NOT date rape, a photo of a penis and possibly the smallest adult penis ever viewed on screen. For real, it’s in slow mo and I swear it disappears at some points. I could not stop searching for it, it was that mind boggling.