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Monday, 1 February 2010

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Observe and Report




Alright, how are we all doing today? Are we seated comfortably? I hope you are, because this is an uncomfortable review for an uncomfortable film. What we have here is a spanking-new comedy starring Seth Rogen. Now, for a bit of background detail, Observe and Report has been overlooked over the past year because a similar film based around a "mall cop" by the name of Paul Blart, which was more family-friendly, performed very strongly at the box-office. As such, this has become known to many as the "other Mall-Cop" movie. However, this is a very different beast entirely. As you could imagine perhaps with the slightly twisted take of comedy that Seth Rogen frequently offers up, this is by no means a family friendly movie. I was probably going to end completely overlooking the film, but it was recommended to me by numerous fellow film fans (including the frequently referenced fellow film critic) as a really good comedy that appeals directly to my sense of humour. The sense of humour here being that of black comedy. I won't lie, I do have a dark sense of humour, and in truth am unfortunately at times able to see the funny in what are the worst situations possible. Life would never be the same in my opinion without being able to point out the absurdities of very serious matters. Take for example the case of Iris Robinson for example. I mean, you can't help but say that there is a humorous absurdity in the idea of a 59-year old right-wing Christian sleeping with a 19-year old, which has, for the time being, seems to have brought the Northern Ireland to a standstill. Damn you Iris, damn you! Anyway, with this offering of black comedy we have Seth Rogen as Ronnie Barnhardt, the head of security at a mall, who is on task attempting to catch a flasher in order to impress Brandi, played by Anna Farris, with whom he is infatuated, however, blocking his progress is inspecting policeman Detective Harrison, played by Ray Liotta, who is also attempting to solve at the mall a number of robberies. Of course, this is all you need to know, and we follow Rogen through all number of situations throughout the film. Now, to get it off the plate to start, a lot of critics do not like Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow et al because their brand of humour is considered "unintelligent, misogynistic and smutty," which to me is a rather dry and ill-informed argument to offer up. Rogen is one of the funniest men in comedy today, not able just to play a bloke or stupid man, but also giving a warm presence onscreen which is very lacking in comedy. In this film, he plays Barnhardt as a regular American, though as mentioned by the film-makers, is obviously inspired by Travis Bickle. As the simpleton who just wants to be good, we do feel for him during his plight, and he portrays the darker, maniacal and more psychotic aspects of the character very well, but the fatal flaw is in the material offered up. Because there is a distinct weakness in the material, there cannot help but be a weakness in the performances. Now, say what you will, that I don't get this film and what is trying to do, I in fact do have an argument backing me up saying that I do get this film and know what I am talking about. As a fan of black comedy, while there are really no rules, and it's anyone’s ball game, there are certain unwritten rules which should be obeyed if one is to achieve a really dark comedy. First off, and I believe that Ricky Gervais is a brilliant practitioner of this form of black comedy, take a realistic and very serious matter, and dig the absurdity and awkwardness out of this situation. This works really well in a few scenes in the film, the scene with the taboo topic of date-rape being a prime example. However, there must a consistency, and this consistently is broken down by using smutty humour in between. There are some sequences involving this smutty humour, or not just smut humour, just the humour in general is so absurd that it disconnects from the awkward reality of the situation. It is a very hard line to walk, and unfortunately with Observe and Report it often falls on its face, because Rogen completely plays a black comedy character, but the gags are often not black-comedy gags, but absurdo-comedy gags, which just don't fit together. The real error for Observe and Report is the script. Director/screenwriter Jody Hill has I believe to be the best intentions for this film, attempting to make a unique and original comedy. The unfortunate thing about the script is that we have a well-written character and a few well-written scenes put into the context of a really off-kilter film, which with all due respect, does seem lazy and rushed. Serious re-writes would need to be done to the script in order to make it in the least memorable. There are individual moments of brilliance, and it makes you think that this might have worked well as a sketch-show character or maybe a supporting character. There is enough there from the work of Rogen to sustain a full film, but otherwise bar a few good gags, everything is filler. The other actors/characters only seem to exist to take Ronnie from Point A to Point A, the structure of the script is very muddled, the gags are often uninventive and lazy, and the director unfortunately is unaware of the film he is making. Jody Hill unfortunately seems to think he is making Scorsese's The King Of Comedy (incidentally based on Taxi Driver itself), but this film, whilst it has the best intentions and moments of brilliance, with a good and complex performance from Rogen, falls flat on its face.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.7/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Deeply disappointed