Whatever your opinion of Seth Rogen, you can’t deny that he’s a prolific performer. Since his lead breakthrough in Knocked Up he’s put his affable stoner persona (characteristics that even seemed present in Monsters Vs Aliens) to good use, appearing in and lending his vocal talents to over 10 movies since that date.
Whilst I wouldn’t say I’m Rogen’s biggest fan, I don’t have a particular problem with him either – it’s clear that he has a certain charm and an infectious laugh plus he always comes across as highly likeable in interviews.
Observe Aand Report sees Rogen move away from the comfortable niche he’s carved out over the past few years and tackle slightly more uncomfortable subject matter than he has previously.
Rogen plays Ronnie Barnhardt, a mall guard (sorry, Head of Mall Security) with delusions of grandeur, a symptom that is most likely attributed to the fact that he suffers from bipolar disorder. Ronnie takes his job extremely seriously so when a flasher starts exposing himself to female shoppers he makes it his personal mission to identify and apprehend the responsible party.
Other than his job, Ronnie’s other obsession is Anna Farris’ Brandi – a makeup assistant who seems irritated by Ronnie’s presence. Encounters between Ronnie and Brandi make for uncomfortable viewing, to say the least. Unrequited love is a familiar theme in movies such as this but when the object of the protagonists’ affections is so detestable it’s hard to understand.
When Brandi is flashed she becomes distraught and Ronnie sees this as his opportunity to be the knight in shining armor and comfort her. Seeing Ronnie run towards her and order his fellow guards to set up a perimeter of cones around her is quite hilarious. As is Ronnie carrying her away to the manager of the Mall’s office so that the police can interview her – obviously she can’t be expected to walk after what she has just witnessed (the flashing, not the over-the-top display from Ronnie).
Ray Liotta plays Detective Harrison, called in to investigate the incidents, which upsets Ronnie greatly as he feels that it is ‘his case’ and that he’s the man best equipped to crack it. Following Harrison’s visit, the mall is robbed, meaning that he is called out once again to investigate. His attempts to investigate aren’t helped by Ronnie who insists on using his own, unique, brand of getting to the truth – shouting at people and racial profiling. What Ronnie sees as good progress being made, Harrisons sees as a giant waste of his time.
Observe And Report is a strange watch to say the least; the humor on display here is dark and there’s a distinct absence of likeable characters. The plot also suffers from the fact that a lot of potentially interesting aspects are touched upon but very few of them are explored to their full potential. There are a few too many scenes that don’t seem to go anywhere or serve the story and feel superfluous to requirements as a result. It’s odd that there are so many of these scenes that don’t serve the story, given the 86 minute runtime.
The movie is also quite graphic – shockingly so at some points. The fight scenes are really well done and you really do feel every blow Ronnie dishes out and receives. The scenes of drug use are also very graphic so if you’re not a fan of needles I’d suggest that you look away.
It’s not without its positives, though. It’s always good to see an actor play against type and tackle uncomfortable subjects and Rogen’s portrayal of someone with bipolar disorder is, for the most part, fairly tasteful and never seems exploitative. So I feel he should be commended, rather than criticised for this. I do recognise that this is unlikely to win Rogen any new fans and he’ll no doubt go on to be in many better movies than this, but it’s interesting to see him play against type.
I feel that I should mention the use of music throughout the movie; the choice of songs, for the most part, is excellent throughout. The Band’s When I Paint My Masterpiece is used to excellent effect over the opening montage of shoppers visiting the mall as well as at the end of the movie. It also sees the inclusion of Lightsaber C*cksucking Blues by McLusky, who are one of my favorite bands, and with this being the first time I’ve heard one of their songs in a movie – experiencing it blaring out at the cinema was quite a big geek moment for me.
I did find the inclusion of The Pixies’ Where Is My Mind a little odd, though. When a song has been used so perfectly in one of cinema’s most iconic scenes, it seems strange that someone would think that it would fit a scene where someone, with their cock out, is being chased around a mall. Although I suppose lyrically it’s a good fit.
There are plenty of laughs in the movie but it’s far from a conventional comedy – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’d be surprised if anyone comes out of the movie getting what they expected from the experience. Those who enjoyed Paul Blart Mall Cop, or Rogen’s previous work, might be in for a shock. You never feel fully comfortable in what you’re laughing at.
I felt conflicted after watching the movie and I still do now. I laughed a lot but I couldn’t say that I fully enjoyed the movie. There are a lot of good points and I was initially steering towards a 3 star rating. However, after giving it a lot more thought, the bad points outweigh the good and I concluded that one star would have been solely for the use of McLusky on the soundtrack – which I appreciate would be a little misleading for those of you who don’t share my love of them (shame on you!).