Observe and Report
dir-scr Jody Hill
with Seth Rogen, Ray Liotta, Anna Faris, Michael Peña, Celia Weston, Collette Wolfe, Dan Bakkedahl, Jesse Plemons, Aziz Ansari, John Yuan, Matt Yuan, Ben Best
release US 10.Apr.09, UK 24.Apr.09
09/US Legendary 1h26
Observe and Report
Wannabes: Faris and Rogen

liotta pena weston
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Observe and Report Seth Rogen's reliable charm finally meets its match in this strained, unfunny script that expects us to laugh at violence, sex, profanity and drugs just because they're hilarious. But there's no actual humour here.

Ronnie (Rogen) is a security guard at a faceless suburban mall that's plagued by both a flasher and a burglar. And he's more than a little annoyed that a local detective (Liotta) has been called in to work the case. Ronnie believes he and his team (Peña, Plemons, Yuan and Yuan) can catch the bad guys. To prove his worth, he applies to join the police, musters the nerve to ask out the hot perfume girl (Faris) and stops taking his bipolar disorder meds. This isn't going to be pretty.

The story has a certain slacker appeal, and the cast is colourful and sharp, putting their full energy into each character. The problem is that the roles are extremely underwritten. Instead of something clever or witty, Hill fills the script with meaningless vulgarity and cheap-shot dialog. Even Rogen can't save a character who's this resolutely obnoxious and unlikeable. The only actors who elicit laughter from this soulless material are Weston (who delivers her most ridiculous lines dead straight) and Faris (reliably amusing as this same spoiled-brat airhead).

Basically, this is dumb-guy, Napoleon Dynamite-style humour, in which we're merely asked to laugh at normal people rather than at any actual comedy. The film isn't particularly well directed or edited, as it requires heavy song score cues and slow motion to let us know when something important is happening. The script feels like it was written by a 10-year-old, with dialog that oozes empty sarcasm but never hits the mark. And violence as the solution to everything.

All of this is a shame, because there's plenty of material in this premise for a solid comedy. Just a whiff of intelligence in the script would have given this gifted cast something to really run with. But as it is, the film is echoed in a line from Liotta's partner (Best): "I thought this was going to be funny, but it's actually kind of sad." Or as Peña's character says later, "There's nothing good about this at all."

cert 15 themes, strong language, violence, sexuality, drugs 14.Apr.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall