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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Observe and Report

This week I went to observe and report back on Observe and Report, the latest offering from funnyman Seth Rogen, which is now playing at the Essex Cinemas and the Cumberland 12.

My Pumpkins, I hate to admit this but your Big Mama Clamzilla has a wee bit of an unexplainable crush on Mr. Rogen, and because of this, it hurts me to tell you that I was just a smidge disappointed in Observe and Report. It isn’t because of anything Seth did or didn’t bring to this project, but Observe and Report just doesn’t have the same pop as his Pineapple Express did.

I’m throwing writer and director Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way) under the bus on this one. He’s the guy who put together this lackluster tale of a mall security officer named Paul Blart: Mall Cop ~ oh
wait! ~ wrong movie, I mean a man named Ronnie Barnhardt, a likeable enough guy who is not so much a loser as he is surrounded by people who have no confidence in him or themselves. Talk about lowering expectations. The mall employees all seem to wander through their days with nothing better to do than torment one another, as Ronnie and kiosk salesman Saddamn (Hey, that’s the way they spelled it in the credits), played by “Parks and Recreations”’ Aziz Ansari do on a daily basis. Their daily “F-bomb” war is way over the top, actually to a point that I felt it was dragging things down, but maybe that’s just me. Others in the theater laughed to the very last “-uck”, which I thought was about ten too many. There’s also Ronnie’s would-be love, the insensitive (or is she just dumb?) Brandi (Anna Faris; The House Bunny), a cosmetics counter attendant that is as shallow as the moisturizer she sells. What Ronnie sees in her is never explained beyond his obvious lust, but that appears to be enough for at least a shot at a drunken one night stand. Of course, at the time he doesn’t realize that this is not an uncommon occurrence in Brandi’s life, but that’s a whole other story. Meanwhile, at the other end of the mall, pining away for Ronnie is sweet Nell (Collette Wolfe; Four Christmases), a coffee-serving gal with a broken leg who suffers in silence from her abusive boss lurking behind the counter in the Food Court. For some reason, Ronnie can’t seem to recognize her obvious perfection right under his nose no matter how clear it is that Nell is the one for him.

Maybe he’s too distracted by the mall’s resident pervert, a guy in a raincoat who keeps flashing his penis at unsuspecting women in the parking lot. This wouldn’t be a problem if he looked like Hugh Jackman, but, unfortunately, this guy looks more like a huge jackass. The sad fact is that Ronnie’s security force is as farcical as you might imagine in a Seth Rogen movie, and the chance of them catching the flasher is fairly slim. His “deputies include seemingly s-l-o-w witted twin brothers John and Matt Yuen (played by hopefully not so slow-witted twin brothers John and Matt Yuan; both from the epic Death Valley: The Revenge of Bloody Bill), over-achiever if not over-achieving Dennis (Michael Peña; Lions for Lambs), and the tentative would-be guard who also works part-time at the chicken shack in the mall, young and oh-so-green Charles (Jesse Plemons; tv’s "Friday Night Lights").

Still, even with a crew like this, it‘s a matter of principle and his own pride that keeps Ronnie from accepting the idea that the Mall Manager (“The Daily Show” correspondent Dan Bakkedahl) would insist on calling in the local police, but since he did now Ronnie has to compete with the super-annoying Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta; Crossing Over) to see who will capture the scrotum shower first. Bad news for Ronnie ~ Harrison doesn’t like to lose a bet, ever.

The good news is Ronnie won’t quit either because he has nothing else in his life make him proud. His mom (the always wonderful Celia Weston; The Invasion) is a falling-down drunk who has no qualms telling Ronnie that his birth was to blame for his own father’s abandoning them and turning her into a lush, giving him a pile of guilt to carry around in addition to being told he is just plain inept by pretty much everybody else he knows. Maybe this is why it is hard to always see Observe and Report as a full-on comedy. Despite the trailer for the movie that gives the impression of this as a zany laughfest, it has serious and almost pitying undertones because Ronnie is such a tragic hero. There is a scene towards the last third of the film where Ronnie’s entire soul is laid bare over a simple cup of coffee and with very few words, his vulnerability up until now a secret masked behind F-bombs and bravado. Once that is wiped away, it is hard to Observe and Report on Ronnie quite the same as before.

There are lots of laughs to be had in
Observe and Report, and I’d never discourage anyone from checking out a Seth Rogen or Ana Faris flick, both of whom are among today’s hottest young talents. Just be aware that this is not all slapstick and kicks in the nuts (unless you do that to the person talking in the theater next to you, which I highly encourage). Observe and Report has a teensy bit of heart tossed in for good measure. Hey, it couldn’t hurt, and it makes for a good date movie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's no secret: I'm madly in love with him, too.