2009 // USA // Jody Hill // October 7, 2009 // DVD - Warner Brothers (2009)
B- - Had it portrayed Seth Rogen's mall security guard, Ronnie Barnhardt, as a mere ridiculed sad-sack with an inflated sense of self-importance, Observe and Report might have been a much more forgettable feature, and also less problematic. Director Jody Hill and Rogen both deserve audacity points for constructing a pitch-black comedy around a protagonist who is a violent, racist, megalomaniacal date rapist. And, indeed, most of the film's distinctly uneasy laughs work because of Rogen's fearless embrace of an appalling character, one so repugnant that his cluelessness engenders no sympathy. Both Hill's dialog and Rogen's delivery are brilliant stuff, yet I hesitate to label Observe "entertaining." Like Burn After Reading, this is an unpleasant story about unpleasant people doing unpleasant things, and it will undoubtedly not be everyone's cup of tea. Alas, Hill lacks the Coens' aesthetic mastery and their nose for cosmic absurdity. While Observe succeeds as an exhilarating prodding of comedic boundaries, flabbiness creeps into the story as the film wears on, and Ronnie's erratic demeanor alone can't energize the proceedings. Moreover, one is left wondering what Hill's intentions were, particularly when Observe concludes with the contemptible Ronnie "winning" (in a fashion) and getting the girl.