Movie Diary: Observe And Report.

Two nights ago I took advantage of my Criterion Club membership, which provides $6 Tuesdays at the movie theater three blocks from my house, in order to see "Observe And Report." It was only playing at 10:05, and the guy who sold me my ticket told me that I was lucky to be seeing it, since they were showing it one more time the next night, then cutting it down and returning it to make room for the new "Star Trek" film. I really don't think it was out for more than two or three weeks, and I was one of three people who saw it on Tuesday, so I'm thinking it must have bombed. I can see two pretty obvious reasons for that: 1) people expected it to just be Seth Rogen in a "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" retread, and didn't figure it was worth seeing. That's understandable, considering the way the trailers presented it. 2) That's not what it is at all, and in fact it mixes its already-dark comedy with some downright fucked up stuff, which means that the sort of people who hit it on opening night looking for a new "Knocked Up" or "Superbad" probably went away horrified and warned their friends away from it.

Neither of these ideas made any impact on my wanting to see it. Having seen writer/director Jody Hill's recent HBO series, "Eastbound And Down," I knew what to expect from him--comedy that sometimes pushes too far into not-funny-anymore awkwardness, mixed with the occasional moments of depressing pathos. The kind of thing that would put off seekers of "Superbad"/"Paul Blart" type hijinks immediately. And in fact, Hill and Rogen take things quite a bit farther in "Observe And Report" than they were ever taken in "Eastbound And Down." The basic plot is as follows: Rogen runs mall security, and when a parking-lot flasher and a midnight thief both strike the mall in the same week, he's determined to solve the crimes, and resents the intrusion of an actual police detective (Ray Liotta). Meanwhile, he's also got a crush on a blonde bimbo who works the makeup counter in the mall department store, and when the flasher flashes her, Rogen goes into overdrive to protect and impress her. He manages to also coerce her into going on a date with him, but she's not really that into it, and then he stops taking his meds... upshot is, dude goes completely off the rails, and the later parts of this movie are more like "Travis Bickle: Mall Cop" than anything the trailers might have led you to expect. I enjoyed watching the movie, and laughed my ass off at parts, but other parts were shocking, and I think only someone with a truly sick sense of humor could find the whole thing funny.

In the end, I don't think the problem with "Observe and Report" is anything relating to its actual quality; it's more just that it's not easily categorized. People who walk into it expecting dumb mall-cop slapstick will be surprised and probably frightened. People who come in looking for post-Apatow Seth Rogen comedy hijinks won't be frightened so much as weirded out. I think only people who walk in expecting a weird movie that doesn't fit into any one category are going to be able to get on this film's wavelength. Jody Hill's previous movie, "The Foot Fist Way," was far more of a cult movie than any sort of mainstream success, and I have a feeling that the same will be true of this one. That said, the guy's got talent, and this is a good movie, despite it not conforming to expectations.



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