October 3, 2009

#041: Observe And Report

     After watching Observe and Report I sat down to write this blog post and had total writer's block. I liked the movie, but I didn't really know what to say about it. I decided to read some reviews on rotten tomatoes to see what others thought. I was amazed by all the negative reviews. Here is one of my favorites...


by Julie RiggHard on the heels of Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin Jacobs as an overweight security guard who wants to be a cop, comes this so-called black comedy with a very similar story.

Seth Rogan plays security guard Ronnie Bernhardt, and he's not only dumb and overweight, he's also racist, foul-mouthed, bipolar, and really, really wants to kill people. When the cops knock him back, he turns vigilante.

Now I don't know what happened here. Maybe director and co-writer Jody Hill decided to go for the dark side and turn one version of the original script into a pastiche of Taxi Driver. And I guess there is no reason why one should not make comedy out of bipolar disorder, or alcoholism, or monumental stupidity.

But this is just sick. One of the nastier scenes has Celia West, as Ronnie's alcoholic Mom, falling smashed from sofa to floor, and later promising to change her life. I'm switching to beer, she beams.

The ugliest is Ronnie's so-called date with Brandi, the hot chick of the mall. She's drunk and wasted on a combination of tequila slammers and Ronnie's bipolar medication. She vomits on his shoes; he takes her home and has sex with her, even though there is more vomit on her pillow.

What actually passes for consent here? I'd like to think the film was opening up this question, but I doubt it. After the Matthew Johns and his five Cronulla team mates scandal, it should be obvious that sexual consent hanging off booze, drugs, testosterone and male bonding is a pretty dubious proposition.

The hideous thing is that the film is modelling behaviour for young men who might still think it's all hilarious.

First off, she didn't even get Kevin James's name correct. I never thought once that Seth Rogen's character, Ronnie Barnhardt(she spelled that name wrong too), is dumb. He is delusional and lacks social skills, but that doesn't mean he is dumb. In a film that features graphic violence and full-frontal male nudity   she describes a woman falling off a couch  as one of the "nastier scenes". I am beginning to wonder if this woman even watched the movie, or went to a writing class for that matter. Her grammar is horrible. I have read a lot of reviews from rotten tomatoes and they have all been much better than this one. However, knowing that people like this have some say in the final score lowers my confidence in the "tomatometer". I am not going to spend a ton of time on Observe and Report, but I did want share that review, and contrast it with my own.

I am going to give this movie a lot more credit than Ms Rigg does. O&R made me laugh enough times to justify it being called a comedy. However, at its core is a sad story about a misguided man-child who can't seem to get his shit together. He isn't dumb, but he is very juvenile in his interactions with others. He seems like his is total jerk, but deep down I think he is good, and he wants to do the right thing, even if its not clear to him what that is. His mother is an alcoholic and I imagine that he had a pretty rough childhood and didn't feel like he was in control. Now as an adult he want to have absolute authority over everything. He is over-compensating by having this cocky, i-can-do-anything attitude. I think Seth Rogen did a great job of playing this character. This may not be his best movie, but it is his best acting job. Rogen is able to make us hate this guy, but at the same time have compassion for him. This character has a lot of depth in a movie with almost none.

Observe and Report seems to have the singular goal of making the audience uncomfortable. It uses vulgar language, graphic violence and male nudity for most of its laughs. A film like this will most definitely divide the audience. As we can see by Ms Rigg's review, she didn't appreciate Rogen's performance as much as I did. It is up to you whether you want to see this movie or not. It exceeded my expectations and I am glad I watched it. It definitely isn't your run of the mill, formulaic comedy, and I was happy to watch something a little different. I would give it 3.5 stars out of 5.


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