Don't confuse Observe and Report with that other mallcop movie "Paul Blart: Mallcop." The latter was a fuzzy, feel-good family comedy starring Kevin James as a lovable, goofy head of security at a mall. Observe, on the other hand, is much darker, often violent, bizarre and mostly unfunny movie starring Seth Rogen as a type of Travis Bickle mall-cop.
Sure both characters pine for a local shop girl and aspire to join the police force, but that's where the similarities end. Observe has Rogen starring as Ronnie Barnhardt, an often-delusional security guard who feels if he can only solve the case of a mysterious flasher terrorizing the mall patrons, he'll get a spot on the police force and win the heart of make-up counter clerk played by Anna Faris.
Rogen, often a writer and producer on his comedies, is just a gun for hire here and it certainly is not the best choice for him. The movie plays like an attempt for Rogen to try to break out of his lovable doofus mold by doing the equivalent of Adam Sandler trying his hand at darker comedy in Punch Drunk Love. It doesn't work. The script is uneven in tone, leaving Rogen funny in some scenes, and falling flat in others.
Gifted comedians such as Patton Oswalt, Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride (let's also add the talented Celia Weston to this bunch as Rogen's alcoholic mother) keep the tone light and entertaining, so when the drugging, violence and nudity does enter the picture, it often comes out of left field and very much as a shock. It is not clear if the intent is to be funny, or not, so the end result is just confusion and bewilderment.
Faris is perfectly cast as the hot make-up girl who gets drunk on her date with Rogen and lets him sleep with her. Her comedic timing and lack of vanity remind us why she's one of Hollwyood's go-to girls for comedy. What other actresses are willing to show themselves having sex and throwing-up at the same time? Meanwhile Michael Pena (Crash, Babel) is hilarious as Rogen's mall-cop sidekick. In one of the film's many non-sequitirs, the duo turn over to the dark side and become a wacked out version of Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro. Unfortunately the entire bit is just too deranged and is likely to offend more than anything else. Newcomer Collette Wolfe, who plays a sympathetic food court employee, seems to be the only character with any real depth here, but unfortunately she's in the wrong movie.
Whereas I was completely turned off by this film, my husband found it so appealingly bizarre, he's convinced Observe & Report might one day be looked upon as a cult classic. He and I will have to differ on that.
Without his usual collaborators - be they Judd Apatow, writing partner Evan Goldberg or past co-stars such as Paul Rudd, Jonah Hill and James Franco -- Rogen proves that leaving the nest is not always a good thing. Observe is a worthy attempt, but the "Report" is a bad one.