If you’re looking for the nice, cuddly story of the mall guard who comes in, saves the day, gets the girl and wins a sequel, then it’s probably best now to point you in the direction of the incredibly safe Paul Blart: Mall Cop. That’s the one that plays out like a cheap version of Die Hard with a few not very funny jokes in it. It’s also the one that made all the money.
Observe And Report didn’t, however, and it’s not very tricky to see why. Here, Seth Rogen plays a shopping centre guard who shifts quickly between friendly and incredibly unpleasant.
He’s bi-polar, although given that the rest of the characters in the film – including Ray Liotta’s cop and Anna Faris’ sales assistant – suffer from a major streak of nastiness, that’s not the distinction you might expect. For Observe And Report is a cold, mean film, and not a particularly pleasant one to sit through. It works hard to get some of its laughs, but when they come, they’re not entirely comfortable.
What does at least get the film out of the starting blocks, though, is its star. People generally have an opinion one way or another about Seth Rogen, and having followed him since the early days of Freaks & Geeks, I’d class myself as a fan. Observe And Report relies heavily on his sheer force of personality to see it through its many bumpy moments, and Rogen is, fortunately, up to the job. He’s front and centre of the film, and he appears to be the wisest decision that writer/director Jody Hill made here.
The brutal truth, though, is that no matter how hard Observe And Report tries to sit on the edges of mainstream, and no matter how likely it is that it’ll find a cult audience in the years ahead, it’s still not a very good comedy. Even looking past the spirit of the film, it never really gels together convincingly, and while the cast are generally fine – and it’s always good to see Ray Liotta on the screen – Observe And Report is surprisingly flat, and not actually that enjoyable.
It’s undoubtedly not the film that it appears from many of the film’s promotions, which is no bad thing in itself, and again you can’t knock it for taking some fairly sizeable risks. It’s just they don’t really come off, and the film itself isn’t actually very good. That’s the real killer here, no matter how hard Rogen’s performance works to convince you otherwise.
Firstly, the technicals. Observe And Report, on both the picture and sound side of things, is fairly decent on Blu-ray, but not too much more than that. Granted, this isn’t the kind of film you’d expect to dig out to demo your home cinema, it’s just the transfer seems quite middle of the road, and the audio likewise. In the case of the latter, surrounds are used well, but there’s not actually that much to do.
The supplements are more generous. The outtakes are dominated by Rogen’s hearty guffaw whenever anything goes wrong, and there are a series of featurettes too. These cover the film’s fight scenes, a recruitment video for mall security, and unscripted takes of Rogen and Faris at work. You also get a generous lump of extended and deleted scenes. The biggest extra is the picture in picture commentary that units Jody Hill, Seth Rogen and Anna Faris in a small box in the corner of your screen talking through the movie. It’s a bit take it or leave it, though.
In summary, I can see Observe And Report proving to be quite a divisive film which, over time, will attract a solid following. But it’s not a straight down the middle divide, and my feeling is that the film is going to disappoint far more people than it satisfies.
I’m, sadly, in the former camp.
The Film:The Disc: