OBSERVE AND REPORT: The Film Babble Blog Review

OBSERVE AND REPORT (Dir. Jody Hill, 2009)

Last weekend on Saturday Night Live, Kristen Wiig playing an audience member in a Q & A, said to host Seth Rogan: “You’re in a second mall cop movie? Good luck with that!” It was an obvious dig at his new movie, but once you get past the seemingly similar premise, Rogen’s deluded schlub of a character recalls such an alienated legend in their own mind like De Niro’s Travis Bickle in TAXI DRIVER more than it does Kevin James’s PAUL BLART: MALL COP. An old school trenchcoated flasher is terrorizing shoppers and employees alike at Forest Ridge Mall and Rogen as head of mall Security is determined to serve up justice. “Hot plates of justice” he specifies to the vein-popping annoyance of the hard nosed police detective (Ray Liotta) called in to investigate.

There is also vandalism and a robbery that Rogen also feels he can handle as he attempts to flirt with Anna Farris as a superficial make-up counter clerk. Rogen trades insults with a kiosk salesman (comedian Aziz Ansari) – one of his many mall adversaries resulting in one of the film’s funniest scenes. Between crude confrontations Rogen gulps free coffee served to him by Collette Wolfe, a sweet girl-next-door but with a leg in a cast, who we know immediately is a better love interest for him than Farris but following Rogen’s every misguided move is the name of the game here. Frustrated with Rogen’s wannabe Police state, Liotta drops him off in a bad neighborhood but it backfires making our would be hero go with gusto into the enlistment process to become a full fledged officer of the law.

Darker than the Judd Apatow produced playgrounds of Rogen’s former films, OBSERVE AND REPORT alternates between edgy and goofy with just the right tone. It’s the best acting I’ve witnessed from Rogen and he’s well matched with the crusty Liotta working his worry lines to great effect, Farris being all too convincing as a vapid vulgar slut, Michael Peña as fellow mall security, and Celia Weston as Rogen’s alcoholic, though supremely supportive mother (as incoherent as she is). Nice comic turns from Danny McBride and Patton Oswalt also fill out the funny.

A much more accomplished and layered film than Jody Hill’s previous piece (THE FOOT FIST WAY), OBSERVE AND REPORT may not be up to the manic comic levels of SUPERBAD or PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (even with the most gratuitous and grotesque display of flabby male nudity this side of BORAT) but it’s still a worthy, if crass, character study that will satisfy fans of lovingly lowbrow comedy such as BAD SANTA or Comedy Central’s Reno 911. Not too shabby a predicament for “a second mall cop movie”.

More later…