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Ten Word or Less Review: Very misguided, very unfunny, nearly unwatchable movie.

Twenty minutes into Jody Hill’s “Observe and Report” Ray Liotta’s detective character turns to Seth Rogen’s mall cop and berates him.  He eviscerates him.  He calls him out for being a fool, a moron, an all around imbecilic retard and every word he says is true. The only characteristics Ronnie has demonstrated so far are a juvenile sense of authority and an even lesser since of insight and depth.  He’s the kind of idiot that only exists in movies.  Seth Rogen’s Ronnie is so completely oblivious to his own wrong doings that any and all attempt to sympathize with the character is lost immediately.  And yet, our sympathies are supposed to lay with this sick, unimaginable, idiot.  “Observe and Report” may be one of the most bullshit comedies made in ages.  If it had simply been a Blartesque bit of foolery about a dimwit working as a mall cop, the poor judgment on display would’ve been much more run of the mill.  But as “Report” actually thinks it has something valid to express and a unique way to go about it, that makes it’s wretchedness a far more notable thing.

Without question the most dubious aspect about “Report” is Rogen’s Ronnie character and more specifically its attempt to justify/explain his behavior by giving him bi-polar disorder.  Ronnie never feels like a real character regardless.  His acts of stupidity are so grating and out of line that his destiny as some kind of warped anti-hero seems misbegotten from the start.  Giving him a genuine mental handicap that millions of people suffer from only serves to turn his incredible, blinding idiocy into incredibly offensive idiocy.  The movie wants us to laugh at Ronnie as he flirts with sociopathic behavior.  It sets up easy targets for Ronnie to terrorize and lash out at, ala “Falling Down”, but his actions are still those of someone not well and this keeps killing what little comedy could’ve existed.  We’re supposed to laugh at Ronnie as he extracts vengeance on cartoonish fools who deserve a slap, but how can we laugh at this when we know his victims are shallow constructs and his actions driven by a diseased mind?  It’s all about one step away from making a movie consisting of tripping handicapped kids on crutches.

Director Hill should’ve watched a movie like “Bad Santa” a little more closely.  In that black comedy, which this one apes on more than a few occasions, Billy Bob Thornton’s antics are often driven because he’s drunk, but never does the movie ask us to laugh at his alcoholism.  It very often bemoans it, acknowledging the repulsive things he does with a clear eye.  And more importantly, Thornton’s character wasn’t blatantly stupid or blind to his handicap.  He knew he was a drunk and he dealt with it.  “Report” doesn’t have this kind of clarity.  It only wants us to laugh as Ronnie continues to horrify the audience and ignore why he does what he does.

Not helping matters at all is a cast rounded out with characters who are all about as bad as Ronnie.  His friends are all as dull as he is, stock morons that could only exist in movies like this.  The girl he obsesses over, Anna Faris, is an awful, superficial mall whore.  His mother is an unapologetic, fall down drunk.  Though it’s a diseased movie, it never allows anything like a genuine reality to encroach.  A film with scope and ambition would’ve eventually included a real perspective or emotion.  Something or someone to pop Ronnie’s bubble, clue him into how warped he is and bring the whole thing down to a place we could buy into.  The fact that it goes so far as to ultimately reward Ronnie’s grotesque behavior is all the more confounding.

“Observe and Report” was put out as a comedy of empowerment.  A tale about a poor slob who had all he could stand and decided to take a stand against the dregs he patrols.  Travis Bickle in a mall as some lazily labeled it.  What they failed to tell you is that the man taking a stand is very much in need of medication.  That the man is a character reeking of unacknowledged failure and in need of therapy.  That to turn a situation like this into comedy was as doomed to fail as it would’ve been to turn “Taxi Driver” into slapstick.  The movie straddles a place of abysmal, two dimensional comedy and thinks that by mixing in some dangerous bits of mental unbalance that the results will somehow shock and amuse.  The only thing that shocks is how consistently awful and non-amusing it all turns out.


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