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How bizarre is it that two films about the lives of the humble shopping mall patroller should premiere in less than 5 months of each other?  Who knew Hollywood had such a fascination?  Donít be lulled into a false sense of security guard, folks, for outside of its lead characterís profession, Observe and Report couldnít have less in common with the family-friendly Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

It seems in every popular movie comedianís career, there is a need to walk on the wild side, to make a dark film that no one would expect.   One of the most notable was Jim Carreyís attempt with the underrated Cable Guy {1996}.  Seth Rogen mustíve felt it was his turn to stretch, but what a shame his choice is an early shoo-in for one of the worst films of the year.

From the cell phone kiosks, to the Toast-a-Bun, and every escalator in between, chief security guard Ronnie Barnhardt {Seth Rogen} is the king of all he surveys at the local mall.  Ronnie and his loyal band of rent-a-cops prowl their fortress of capitalism like a special-ops platoon, praying for the day they might be allowed to carry actual ammunition.  When a flasher prowls the shopping centre and frightens Brandi {Anna Faris}, the object of Ronnieís affections, his authority is challenged by Detective Harrison {Ray Liotta}, who unwittingly inspires Ronnie to pursue his dreams of joining the police force, complete with license to carry a real gun.  Around the same time, Ronnie makes a very bad move in his quest to impress the hard-partying Brandi, by handing over all his bipolar-disorder medication for her enjoyment.  There was a reason for all those pills and without them Ronnieís mental instability gets the best of the already delusional security guard.

Bitter, ugly and painful to watch, I never laughed once during Observe and Report.  In the attempt to go dark, writer/director Jody Hill loaded on vile, tasteless moments all aimed to shock the audience with their supposed edge and politically incorrectness.  This would all be fine and good if even one single moment of it was actually funny.  Watching Ronnie vigorously enjoy the favours of a vomit-covered, passed-out Brandi just didnít elicit a chuckle.  Nor did the movieís highlight of the flasherís triumphant full-frontal trot through the entire mall, filmed in excruciating slow motion for maximum gross-out.  Thereís also the overall prospect of getting knee-slapping yuks at the expense of a character whoís mentally ill.  Hilarious.

If Seth Rogenís point in doing this film was to play an unlikable character, then mission accomplished:  Even on his meds, Ronnie is obnoxious and irritating.  Iím confounded by Rogenís choice to play this guy at this stage in his burgeoning career.  The only lights in this muck come from Ray Liotta, as Ronnieís detective rival.  I adore Liotta in most things, but the man is becoming his own punchline, playing the loud, slimy guy.  The hilarious Celia Weston plays Ronnieís whorish, alcoholic mother and Collette Wolfe is adorable as the sweet coffee shop employee terrorised by her coworkers until Ronnie gives up his pills.  Each performance is utterly wasted in this comedy swamp.

If given the choice between a repeated bludgeoning with a tire iron and sitting through Observe and Report, go with the tire iron, youíll feel better when itís over.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

April 8th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photos

(Courtesy of  Warner Brothers Pictures)

 

 

 

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