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Tue April 7, 2009
Observe and Report
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"At this point in my life, I feel like I could destroy some mother------s!" Ronnie (Seth Rogen)
Seth Rogen's Ronnie Barnhardt in Observe and Report is more deranged than the loser slackers of Miss March and actually generates fewer laughs. This pathological rent-a-cop head of mall security is so clueless that he pastes the picture of a mall streaker's penis on his forehead without the faintest notion that he is establishing himself as a d---head.
Why anyone would think this misanthropic pic a comedy, even action comedy, is a mystery. Androgynously-named Ronnie abuses everyone but his drunken mother and beats up kids, in some kind of avenger fantasy that helps him endure the life of a nowhere guard with no future. The insecurities of security at malls, successfully exploited earlier this year with Kevin James's Paul Blart takes a decidedly dark turn in Observe & Report with Ronnie's run-in with the real law, personified in detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), who helps the mall deal with the streaker and deals with Ronnie's application to join the force.
Needless to say, Ronnie is not real police material with his neuroses and manifest racist and sexist attitudes. The film just doesn't capitalize on the many opportunities to satirize all these failures of maturity, relying instead on the barren wilderness of Ronnie's life inside and outside the mall. There are laughs to be sure of the stoner variety but too few even of those.
A detective hiding in a closet to witness Harrison's telling Ronnie he failed the cop qualifying tests bolts with this exclamation: "I thought this was gonna be funny, but instead it's just kinda sad."
Rogen has moved from stoner/slacker stardom in Superbad to a dark loser with homicidal tendencies. That's kinda sad, and that's what I observe and report.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics shows, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com