Movie News & Reviews

'Observe and Report' rises above rut of its genre

There's nothing more fun for everyone than ultra-hip arguments aboutwhether that guy who used to be cool is still cool now that he's allpopular and junk.

In that spirit, I raise the question of Seth Rogen: Still awesome nowthat he opens a new movie as frequently as most of us think about whathuge disappointments we are? Or has America had enough of chubby,sexy, amiable stoners who seem like they would be tons of fun to hangout with even though they never reply to my emails about how great Ithink he is and I think I'm developing a relationship ulcer? In short,is it time we come together as a people, join hands, and fire up theInternet Hate Machine?

Thus went my thinking about Observe and Report, the first Rogenfeature I haven't been excited to go see. But midway through, you knowwhat I realized? Overexposure isn't the problem. A good movie's a goodmovie, no matter how many other idiots you hate are going to be thereat the theater with you. It's just that, sooner or later, even themost talented actors, writers, and bands start to suck, and this sooften coincides with the time they get really big that we naturallythink the one is caused by the other.

Wrong. They just made the mistake of getting old or having kids or getting sober or any of theother ways someone cool can transform themselves into someone younever want to see again.

Seth Rogen is a mall cop defined by and devoted to his job. When aflasher starts terrorizing his mall, he makes it his mission to bringthe pervert to justice.

Thing is, he's got the spirit, but the talent is lacking. Soon, theflasher springs his goods on Anna Faris, the makeup counter employeeRogen's smitten with. With no other choice, the mall manager turns tothe police for help.

Rogen and detective Ray Liotta butt heads from the start. In danger ofhaving his thunder stolen by the real deal, Rogen begins to pursue hissecret dream of joining the real police, a job he may not be as wellsuited for as he fervently believes.

Observe and Report starts off as nothing special, a moderatelyfunny, overfamiliar story of incompetent but enthusiastic men who mayor may not have mild brain damage and the useless but pretty girlsthey pursue. Also, there are quirky sidekicks.

If this sounds like something you've seen before, that's just a signyou've been alive at some point in the last 15 years since thatparticular subgenre apparently became the only thing young men areallowed to enjoy. (Don't get me wrong, it can be awesome — insultBilly Madison in front of me and you'll have to drive me to thehospital after we brawl.)

If Observe and Report had done nothing more than follow thatwell-traveled path — you could call it a "rut," but that would make youa jerk — it would have ended up OK. It's got a couple hilariouslydark jokes, and Rogen brings his usual charm to the role.

Wisely, writer/director Jody Hill takes a bizarre, depraved turn withthe film's third act. Zagging like a Soviet submarine just when you'llthink you've got the ending all figured out, it hits a madly funnymomentum that turns the last 20 minutes into messed-up gold.

They even find a way to redeem Rogen's troubled soul without resortingto the standard cliche where he learns responsibility is rad and it'stime to be in a committed relationship forever. The effort goes a longway towards justifying Observe and Report's existence. As longas Rogen and the crew keep finding weird, funny ways to tell oldstories, they'll be worth watching.

Grade: B