Yap vs. Yap: "Observe and Report"
Chris: So this is the inauguration of a new feature, "Yap vs. Yap," where Joe and I trade off comments on a new movie or film-related topic. The idea is to be adversarial in a humorous way, much like the "Spy vs. Spy" cartoons from Mad Magazine.
Today we're talking about the new movie "Observe and Report" starring Seth Rogen as an over-earnest mall cop. I'll start out by saying that based on this movie and "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," I'm already ready for this genre to be put out of its misery. Or out of our misery, to be more accurate.
Joe: We're in agreement with that, but while this had some real flaws, it definitely has its moments. Honestly, this is the mall cop movie we've been waiting for. It's the "Taxi Driver" of mall cop movies, alternating between raucously funny situations from a somewhat of an anti-hero (Rogen), who struggles with obsession, whether it's with catching the flasher or mall burglar, or with the sexy cosmetics girl (Anna Faris), or with his own investigation, keeping it from the cops.
C: I will admit that the beginning section and very last part are often funny. But man, what is the deal with that last two-thirds or so? You're right to use the "Taxi Driver" comparison, because Ronnie the mall cop definitely goes all Travis Bickle on us. What was with the deal where he fights like a dozen cops, and they beat him senseless, and he gets paraded in front of the TV cameras in handcuffs? Was that even remotely funny? Was it even trying to be funny?
As I said in my review, I think the movie went off its meds.
J: I can't deny it's an imperfect film, and it does go off in an odd direction for awhile, but it was almost necessary for the sake of solving the film's central mysteries of who the burglar is and how Ronnie will resolve the flasher situation. But it certainly returns to form near the end, and I think that turn to the dark side helps out with the rather wild and I have to say brutal finale. I also would like to mention one of the supporting performances in Michael Pena as Ronnie's metrosexual "lieutenant." I've only seen Pena in dramatic roles, like "World Trade Center" and last year's Iraq War drama "The Lucky Ones," but I thought he acquitted himself well and a comedic role.
C: Forgive me, but I guess I missed the part of "Blues Brothers" or "The Producers" or "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" or any other of the funniest movies ever made that had long dreary stretches where they aren't funny. Not only not funny, but actively trying NOT to be funny. "Observe and Report" didn't need to have Ronnie go all crazy and smashing display windows and screaming at people. It wasn't funny, it didn't set up anything that was critical -- it just stopped the movie cold. Pena was pretty good in a very different role for him. But I was really disappointed by how ill-used Anna Faris was. She's been funny in a lot of movies, and here she's just grating and pitiful.
J: You certainly won't get any argument from me on Faris. She was dull and dreadful, save for one moment with Ronnie. But making up for her in a sense was Collette Wolfe, who played Nell, who springs up as this unexpected love interest for Ronnie. She spends most of the movie sitting behind a counter with a broken leg, absorbing whispered taunts from her boss (Patton Oswalt) and co-workers and pining for Ronnie from afar. One of the better dynamics in the movie is Ronnie being so completely oblivious to this girl who is giving him free coffee every day, listening to his every trouble, and batting her eyes at him. At one point he even says something really insulting and hurtful to her and didn't even realize it.
As for the Taxi Driver turn, I appreciate the attempt they were making in doing something different in a mainstream movie, even if it didn't always work out. Who says all good comedies have to be just like the classics. There's something to be said about taking a risk, and writer/director Jody Hill certainly did that in this film.
C: Collette Wolfe was wonderful as Nell, although what she sees in the increasingly scary Ronnie is beyond me. It's one of the immutable laws of modern cinema, which is that no matter how troll-like the male lead is, the girl who falls for him will always be supermodel-hot. Hollywood apparently only has one slot available for an actress who isn't gorgeous, and that's currently occupied by Kathy Bates.
J: Very true, though Collette was "uglied up" to a degree (I actually looked her up and was shocked at how attractive she was). She spends most of the film wearing little makeup and was wearing a somewhat unflattering fast-food restaurant uniform, complete with little hat. I think in that context she seemed a better match for Ronnie's character, though, yes, he was at several points insensitive at best.
Final words: yes, it's imperfect and has a stretch where the film takes an odd turn, but the truly funny parts really score, and as one of those "that's just not right" comedies, it's worth seeing.
Joe's rating: 3.5 Yaps out of 5 Chris' rating: 2.5 Yaps