“Observe and Report” is by no means the comic romp suggested by the trailer. Yes, it stars Seth Rogen, but despite surface similarities, he’s no Jack Black. Yes, he’s funny, but there’s also a darker underbelly to the guy that I’ve seen flashes of before, but that have never been exposed as thoroughly as they are here.
Rogen is Ronnie Barnhardt, chief of security at a shopping mall. He makes his rounds, stopping at the department store perfume counter to flirt with the slutty gal on duty there, Brandi (Anna Faris). More than anything, Ronnie wants to be a real cop.
When a pervert begins flashing women in the parking lot, Ronnie sees it as his ticket to the Policeman’s Ball. Unfortunately, a real cop (Ray Liotta) shows up to work the case. When the pervert terrifies the idiotic Brandi by flashing her, Ronnie, who thinks the guy will come back to kill her, swears that he will protect the woman he loves.
So far this sounds like a standard-issue Rogen comedy, or even a Kevin James one. But darkness enters the picture because Ronnie is bipolar and is so happy when Brandi agrees to go out with him that he decides to quit taking his medication.
The picture was written and directed by Jody Hill (HBO’s “Eastbound & Down”) and it frequently ups the ante of the current Judd Apatow formula by doubling the pot. After his date with Brandi, Ronnie brings her home in a state of drunkenness so profound, she’d die if she hiccuped too hard. Your standard comedy would elicit some laughs with him trying to get her into bed. Hill decides to play Ronnie with painful reality by allowing him to indulge in a little date rape. Funny date rape, of course, but it ‘s a scene that leaves us questioning the actions of the typical slob-comedy characters.
Satires this biting don’t come along very often, so enjoy it. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t exactly the right word. “Experience,” maybe. This is not a nice world, and Hill makes no effort to pretty any of it up for us. He’s just here to observe and report, and he wraps it all up in an ending that would make W.C. Fields and Billy Wilder proud.
The disc is barebones.