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DVD catch-up: Observe And Report

REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS

Not everything is a bargain that finally reaches the bargain bin...

Seth Rogen and Ray Liotta in Observe And Report (2009)

2009 was a memorable year for many reasons; the US elected the first black President in their history; Britain followed the rest of the world into recession; and the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, died, leaving much controversy and despair in his wake. However, while such contentious and provocative news was making itself known amongst the people, the world of cinema was stretching its boundaries and redefining the way we viewed films but, from a muted corner of the debate, it was also crying out for help.

If one was to overlook the cinematic year as a whole, it would be hard not to see it as a great success. While releases such as Precious and The Blind Side were giving some much deserved air time to unknown actors, the likes of Avatar and Ice Age 3 were revolutionising how we watch the latest releases, with both truly capitalising on the opportunities presented by 3D technology.

However, despite so many positives, there is one glaring observation that one cannot help but notice: the fact that, within a period of just over one month, two films were released based entirely on the concept of a ‘mall cop’. Now, for those of you who are not as Americanised as others, mall cops are described by Wikipedia as ‘shopping mall security who enforce and protect the mall like the police’. Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of a comedy based entirely on a rent-a-cop is not one that would arouse my senses and, as Observe and Report has so candidly shown, is not one that works.

Observe and Report follows Ronnie Barnhardt, a bi-polar suffering mall officer whose life revolves around the mall in which he works. Ronnie sees himself as protector of the people, so wrapped up in his own self-deluded thoughts that he fails to see how others see him; as a laughing stock, a joke who they can exploit or use for their own amusement.

When a streaker runs riot, exposing himself on countless of occasions, Barnhardt sees it as an opportunity to prove himself and impress the girl of his dreams, Brandi. Along with regular thefts at night and his bête noire Detective Harrison making life impossibly hard for him, Ronnie must work his way through his complicated and, at times, unbalanced life.

While the film, on paper, reads like it may make for a plausible and light-hearted comedy, in reality it has produced a rather confused adolescent, trying hard to capitalise on childish and slapstick aspects of comedy which made films such as Anchorman and The 40 year Old Virgin such classics.

Firstly, whether you like to admit it or not, Seth Rogen’s character just does not work. Here we have an immensely talented comic actor stuck playing a role that never gives him the freedom to express this. Unconvincing as a bi-polar sufferer with an alcoholic mother, much of Rogen’s comedy within the film is cringeworthy and unconvincing. The comedy regularly feels recycled, as if pieced together by the leftovers of similar films of this genre.

However, Rogen’s shortcomings are no worse than those of John and Matt Yuan, twin brothers who were selected as part of Rogen’s mall cop entourage. Upon further investigation, it was established that this was the pair’s first main acting role and I hope it will be one of the last. Obviously, the pair were brought in to offer a different angle to the film, adding a sense of diversity that has become rife amongst this comedy genre. However, unlike Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s success as McLovin or Steve Carell’s now legendary performance as Brick Tamland, the pair offered nothing new, with their input generally long-winded and unpleasant.

Despite this, Observe and Report still has moments of brilliance which give hope in regard to the future career of director Jody Hill. Firstly, the casting of Ray Liotta as Detective Harrison was genius. The actor shines on many occasions, showing his elasticity for such varied roles and even saving the film with his wonderfully dysfunctional bond to Rogen.


"Unlike its Happy Madison-directed relative, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Observe and Report never manages to grasp your attention and its rather dark storyline makes it basically impossible to make any kind of emotional connection to the film or its star"


As well as this, the performances of both Celia Weston as Ronnie’s mother and Dan Bakkedahl as Mark are hilarious, further adding to the maladjusted nature that is Ronnie.

What’s irritating about this film is that, at times, it really does make you laugh. Now whether that’s watching Seth place a blanket over his inebriated mother or this very mother responding to Ronnie’s question of whether he was to blame for his father leaving with ‘definitely’, it really does show glimpses of something better. However, more often than not the comedy wore thin or went down a rather disturbing path and as such was forgotten.

Here’s an observation - Jody Hill has failed to make the most of Seth Rogen and the many other hugely successful stars featured, instead producing a rather heavy-handed piece which makes for uncomfortable viewing. Unlike its Happy Madison-directed relative, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Observe and Report never manages to grasp your attention and its rather dark storyline makes it basically impossible to make any kind of emotional connection to the film or its star.

Here’s the report - to date, the film is the lowest-grossing film in which Seth Rogen has played a leading role, and both John and Matt Yuan have remained as regular unknowns since its release, little to the surprise of anyone who watches this film.

Overall, it would appear that Jody Hill bit off more than he could chew with this project and one can only hope that Rogen now introduces him to the likes of Judd Apatow and Will Ferrell for the sake of both his career and the audiences of his latter productions.

2 stars

Extras:
Again, a limited option from a limited film. In terms of extras, there is a gag reel of around 12 minutes. Apart from this, Observe and Report offers very little in terms of extras.


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