2 June 2009 | KUAlum26
Too poetic to be bad,too uneven to be great
Meet Ronnie Barnhardt(Seth Rogen),beefy,twenty-something,working at a mall in suburban California(?) as a security guard--well,by his account CHIEF security guard--and he takes it VERY seriously and personally when a flasher terrorizes female patrons,then coincided with a burglary. When afore-mentioned perv flashes the sexy shallow make-up counter girl Brandi(Anna Faris,shedding any reserve here,if she ever had any),Ronnie goes from "heading up" the investigation to making it some sort of personal mission,a Quixotic endeavor to augment his dual sense of duty and an empty but destiny-bound personal life.
I have yet to see either writer/director Jody Hill's first film,Foot Fist Way,or his HBO series "Eastbound and Down",but his sophomore effort had heightened my curiosity. In this film,Hill presents Ronnie as somewhat of a contradiction: a near-fascistic believer in law and order whose sense of creating that order is something out of a violent,sadistic nihilistic nightmare/fantasy,peppered with quasi-racist and thick-headed assumptions,all the while he's holding fast to his dreams while setting brave face against the very real facts(that he's become almost blissfully oblivious to)of his bi-polar disorder,the fact that he's generally mocked or not taken seriously by most anyone outside of his close group of friends(including but not limited to the same Police department he so longs to join) and that his heavy-drinking mother(Celia Weston,fantastic in what could be considered a strictly ancillary role)seems as oblivious to his problems as he is to his own.
This is another movie that seems to garner a lot of "10"s,"9"s,"8"s,"3"s,"2"s or "1"s;in other words,not much middle ground of opinion. I certainly CANNOT deem this to be anywhere close to terrible,since I laughed quite a bit at this. But this film is also unbalanced enough to be unnerving and even discouraging at times. So I'm left with saying that I came away feeling like it's certainly good enough for quoting,just not quite good enough for full recommendation. Most everyone in this film's probably done better work(Ray Liotta's part is maybe a few scenes shy of being disposable),but this,to me,cannot be considered their worst. Some of the actors,particularly Michael Pena(as the lisping security peer of Ronnie's) and Collette Watkins(as the sweet Cinabon girl who gives Ronnie his daily free coffee)have me even intrigued to see them in other stuff. I know it's been said before,but this really is sort of a distaff,dark cousin to the much more sincere but perhaps too sugary Paul Blart:Mall Cop,and while it does parallel Taxi Driver,it kinda drops the dark,fatalistic intensity at the conclusion reaching a conclusion that may puzzle or dissatisfy some,but still basically fits the overall spirit of the movie.
To say this film is probably for discerning and specific audiences is probably a (big)understatement,but it's still oh-so-true. To recommend this movie,you better know that someone pretty well,because Observe and Report is the kind of movie that rambles,six-guns a-blazing,blasting the viewer with its own brand of dark humor and skewed philospohy. A good,sick comedy/drama,but viewer be forewarned.