Just a few months ago, audiences across the country were swept away by the hilarious antics of a crime-fighting mall cop named Paul Blart. Now, three months later, Hollywood has pumped out another security guard comedy, but as far as comparing the two, the comparison stops there.
While “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” was a matinee pratfall for the kids and old folks, Jody Hill’s “Observe and Report” is a seedy crack fix for the depraved.
Seth Rogen ditches his endearing chucklehead persona for his newest role as Ronnie Barnhardt – a delusional square badge with a bad case of bipolar disorder. He sees the mall as his world. A place where he can save the day and get the girl.
And with a recent string of robberies and a serial flasher on the loose, Ronnie sees this as the perfect chance to show the world what he’s made of.
He’s going to track down these lowlifes and he’s going to stop at nothing to do it. Even if that means having to duke it out with the local police, including an adversary in the form of Ray Liotta’s Detective Harrison.
The greatest flaw of this movie is its pacing. It doesn’t really pick up until Ronnie goes off the meds and falls into a pitch-black nightmare of his own creation. But what seems like the most disturbing situation eventually turns the wheels that make this movie run.
This is a new blend of laughter. The dark comedy has been around for ages, but nobody has pushed it as far as Jody Hill. Coming off HBO’s sleeper hit, “Eastbound and Down,” Hill seems to be propelling his newest creation down an obsidian highway covered in injured wreckage from a distressful night.
Sporadically, the tides of humor change. Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” was revolutionary for its time, but it doesn’t have the same response twenty years later. The laughs that we have are altered over the years. The funny bone is tricky like that.
The reason why comedy changes over the years is because of interesting, subversive and edgy material. Movies like “Observe and Report” continue to carry comedy to another level. Nobody wants to hear the same five-year-old jokes recycled over and over again. That’s what movies like “I Love You, Man” are for.
Pigeonholed for so long as the poster boy for the Apatow film, Rogen has done everything in his power to move away from that line of work and to diversify himself as a comedian. Every new project is another step in learning his craft.
But this movie is not Rogen’s alone. A solid cast of background and supporting characters buoy a film that could have easily turned into a one-man show. Michael Peña in particular pulls out a surprising turn as the number two of Ronnie’s cabal, a complete one-eighty as compared to his generally dramatic repertoire.
Anna Faris also brings down serious laughs as the object of Ronnie’s affection, Brandi. She has her place on the screen with a completely obnoxious role, but has found the ability to not turn grating.
As far as things go, “Observe and Report” is most definitely a film in which an open mind has to be considered. This is not your standard popcorn flick or something you could pop on the TV and watch with your parents. For something like that, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” might suffice.