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Observe and Report: Breaking New Ground in Inappropriateness

The new film starring Seth Rogen is willing to go anywhere for a laugh.

by
Kyle Smith

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April 10, 2009 - 12:15 am
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So you’ve seen Paul Blart: Mall Cop and wouldn’t mind seeing something similar this weekend? Then stay far away from Observe and Report.

Both movies feature security-guard chubsters whizzing around on hilarious vehicles (a Segway in the earlier movie and a modified golf cart in this one) who flirt with pretty girls working at kiosks in a mall. Both movies show these wannabe cops tangling with skateboarders and jiggling their way through obstacle courses. But the two films have about as much in common in their souls as 42nd Street and Midnight Cowboy.

Seth Rogen stars in a sinister, alarming, even gory study of a psychopath who is essentially the Travis Bickle of the food court. The script is wall-to-wall with filthy language, drug abuse, and gratuitous violence.

So why did I like the movie? Because I see a lot of them, and rarely does one catch me off-guard as frequently as this one. It’s so stylishly unpredictable, with its crazy turns, its punk interludes, its hilarious asides (a guy driving a getaway car pauses to tune his radio to a song by the Little River Band), and its outrageously loathsome characters, that it reminded me of the work of Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson. When a cop in the film says, “I thought that this was gonna be kinda funny but it’s actually kinda sad,” he is providing the motto for half the scenes.

The Rogen character, Ronnie Barnhardt, is bizarrely fascinating in his awkwardness. On a date (to which he wears a Cosby Show-style sweater and a gold necklace), he tries to make a connection with the girl by saying, “I like to drink fast too.” His mother (Celia Weston) is an alcoholic who — when Ronnie asks, “Do you think it was my fault that dad left? — replies, “Definitely.”

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