Typical. You wait decades for a mall-cop movie and then two arrive at once. On paper, Observe And Report couldn’t be more similar to Paul Blart: here’s another delusional chubster who lives with mum, patrols a shopping centre and has the hots for a sales girl way out of his league. Bought from the same chainstore, to borrow retail parlance.
But that’s pretty much where the similarity ends, as Observe takes a far darker turn at every muzak-piped corner. Where Paul Blart’s relatively harmless hypoglycaemia contributed to his aura of failure, Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) is bipolar, enough to simultaneously quash his ambitions to become a real cop like his nemesis Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), while ramping up the mania he displays on patrol in his domain.
With bipolar disorder accepted as a comedy device (our sides!), it opens the door for other comedic ‘staples’ like alcoholism, sexual harassment and speech impediments, writer/director Jody Hill (The Foot Fist Way) using every inch of Observe’s 15-rating to shock and disturb. Which he does with great and unbridled enthusiasm. A protracted scene featuring a fat flasher makes it hard to keep your eyes on the screen, while an un-erotic sex scene with the object of Barnhardt’s desire – Brandi (Anna Faris) – is enough to make you celibate for months.
Still, if you find copious use of the word ‘fuck’ hilarious, this really could be the movie for you. If, however, you prefer your dark comedy to leaven the dark with a bit more actual comedy, you may find Observe And Report unfocused, puerile and ever so slightly unpleasant.
This mall cop may be more Bickle than Blart, but Observe And Report tries too hard to be edgy, while its gloomy observations fail to produce a cohesive whole. Shop elsewhere.