This just in: it is possible for a movie starring Seth Rogen to not be good.
I’ve been heavily invested in the rise of Rogen over the past few years. Ever since I watched Freaks and Geeks on DVD, I’ve pretty much been in love with the guy. When he popped up in The 40 Year Old Virgin, I saw this irreverently funny guy who seemed to have a heart of gold and the potential for super stardom. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three years, you know he has reached those heights. Knocked Up, Superbad, and Pineapple Express were all big comedy hits, cementing Rogen as the comedy star of the moment.
This guy has chosen pretty well. For one thing, he has stayed attached to Judd Apatow’s hip and has recognized the value of generating his own material, as he cowrote both the Pineapple and Superbad scripts. With Zack and Miri Make a Porno, he proved that he could be both a raunchy hero and a solid romantic lead. He also just supplied his voice to Monsters vs. Aliens, demonstrating that–I don’t know, he realizes there is money in that kind of shit.
With Funny People, his latest collaboration with director Apatow, coming out this summer and The Green Hornet getting ready to shoot, Rogen is geared to be on top of the world for at least the next few years. I have to say I’m pretty psyched about this–it kind of redeemed my faith in American audiences when they embraced a guy who was so average looking and perpetuated such a filthy brand of comedy. Rogen is making everyone a little bit cooler.
With Observe and Report, I was skeptical; it really is Rogen’s first time on his own outside of Team Apatow. The trailers were kind of funny, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. If the lead character didn’t work, it didn’t seem like there were any good supporting characters to plug the holes. Rogen’s a comedy mad man though–I figured he could pull it off.
He most assuredly did not. Observe and Report is Rogen’s Nacho Libre; just as Jack Black thought his presence was the only necessity in making that film funny, Rogen has the same philosophy here. He plays a character so loud, obnoxious, unpleasant, ignorant, and racist that it is hard to understand why anyone wanted to make this movie. I wanted my money back.
Rogen plays a mall security guard named Ronnie Barnhart, a jackass who takes his menial job very, very seriously. Convinced of his own honor and superiority, Ronnie sees it as his sworn duty to protect the mall from all who would disturb it. The fact that these perpetrators are usually just skateboarding kids, shoplifters, or the occassional flasher in the parking lot means nothing to him–any crime, big or small, will incur his wrath.
That flasher that I mentioned is the first thing to grab his attention. Ronnie makes it his personal mission to solve this crime. The joke (and a very sophisticated one at that) is that he is too stupid to do it. So he yells, comes to idiotic conclusions, singles out minority employees as possible perps. He vows to protect one of the flasher’s victims, Brandi (Anna Faris), a stupid, slutty cosmetics girl that Ronnie has a crush on, something that makes him even less worthy of our respect.
When a shoe store at the mall is vandalized, the real police, led by Officer Harris (Ray Liotta), come in to investigate. Ronnie wants to be a cop but doesn’t want the police horning in on his case. He and Harris walk around the mall and question employees about suspicious activity. Ronnie so bungles each of these encounters that Harris could probably arrest him for interfering with an investigation. I wish he would have, since achieving a high level of obnoxiousness is clearly on Ronnie’s list of daily priorities.
I really don’t know how writer/director Jody Hill wants us to look at Ronnie. On one hand, Hill is simply amused by how idiotic he is, but being a lovable if dim goof isn’t the same as being a vehement sociopath. The movie reminded me a lot of Big Daddy, and that isn’t a good thing. In both films, we get a character who is both such an asshole and such a schlub that it is hard to root for him to any degree.
The movie works off something of the same premise as Taxi Driver, as Ronnie, a loner convinced of his own moral superiority, tries to come to the aid of people who don’t want or necessarily need it. I thought this was kind of a funny idea, but the film places him at the center of the story without a trace of irony; I guess Hill just thinks Rogen coming down an escalator with his arms folded and his turkey neck sticking out is a funny image. The whole premise just feels half-baked, like something you would say to start a movie but then hammer out a little bit better.
I won’t bore you by continuing to bag on this movie. I didn’t like it and I don’t recommend that anybody see it. It got on my nerves, and I was kind of offended by its existence. I think it’s good that Seth Rogen failed at least once though–as his star climbs, I think this can only benefit him. He tried to go too far too fast with this one, forsaking his irreverent but lovable stoner persona and replacing it with a violent, aggressive dick persona. He obviously hadn’t figured out what was funny about this guy and how to best express that. Learning experience for the future, I guess.
Anyway, don’t see it. Out.