Observe and Report (2009) Dir. Jody Hill

Ronnie Bernhardt (Seth Rogen) Hapless git of the highest order.

As an actor, Seth Rogen is hard to categorise. I can see why he’s considered funny, and even is in some cases, but in many films he really comes across as an uber-defensive, entitled jerk. Then again, maybe that’s the point. But too often, what should be laugh out loud funny gets played as mean spirited and doesn’t give much reason to even snigger.

For example, here he plays Ronnie Barnhardt, a small time mall cop (there are obvious similarities to that other Mall Cop movie from 2009) who wants more out of life, despite being constantly frustrated by his bi-polar, passive-aggressive mental state. He comes across as misunderstood, but also a bit of a hapless git. His biggest challenge becomes trying to stop a repellant streaker from freaking out the mall customers and he bitterly resents what he sees as interference from the police in trying to catch the guy, and does all he can to mess up the investigation for Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta). He actually wants to be a cop, but he’s clearly better off keeping away from real guns. While this part of his life fails to lift off, he gradually makes headway in dating the self-centred makeup counter girl, Brandi (Anna Faris) although it’s clear he should be trusting the only nice girl in the whole mall, who works on a coffee counter and gets bullied by her evil boss (a miniscule role for Patton Oswalt). He goes some way to succeeding, but it’s almost imposible to root for him.

He doesn’t exactly go from zero to hero, either – he gradually evolves from someone you could almost get behind to someone you could cheerfully cross several streets to avoid. Things just seem to happen to him and he takes control in a worrying way that mainly involves beating the crap out of, and in the streaker’s case, shooting, anyone who has at one time pissed him off. This fits with Seth Rogen’s other roles, which really rely on everyone else being the bad guy who should be made to pay for making him feel a little bit bad about himself. In Observe and Protect there’s no Kevin Smith writing to give him a sympathetic character edge, and the black comedy here delivers a bumpy, uncomfortable ride. It tries to be shocking without any real heart, for example the affectionate moments between him and his alcoholic mom are nice, but it’s got a cold attitude at its centre and very little to love. I don’t think you’re meant to get increasingly depressed while you watch a comedy, but that’s what happened here. Perhaps it would have worked as a worthy drama instead?!

Anyway, I’ll never get those two hours back – and it might be responsible for me watching the other mall cop movie at some point. Or, perhaps, I’ll keep away from both of those and go watch Mallrats again!

Don’t shop here, run a mile….


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