‘Observe and Report’

It’s tempting to describe "Observe and Report" as the feel-bad comedy of the year.

There’s one problem: It’s not funny.

Truth be told, however, there’s more than one problem with "Observe and Report," which turns out to be a lot less observant than it pretends.

Thus it’s my solemn duty to report that a supposedly bold experiment in dark humor emerges as a virtually empty exercise in wretched excess. And I do mean wretched.

More’s the pity, because "Observe and Report" had definite potential as a sharp satirical portrait of a desperate (and possibly dangerous) nobody who’s a legend in his own mind.

Casting the affable, teddy-bearish Seth Rogen in the role gives the actor the chance to move beyond the stoner schlubs he’s played (to a fare-thee-well) in such hit comedies as "Knocked Up" and "Pineapple Express."

That’s because the guy he plays in "Observe and Report" — rent-a-cop Ronnie Barnhardt — would just as soon knock those losers upside the head as look at them.

Truth be told, Ronnie would rather blow them away with some real live firepower, but as a mall security chief — don’t ever call him a mall cop — he’s not allowed to carry a gun.

Still, Ronnie reasons, "We got Tasers. We got Mace. It’s not bad."

That is, until a raincoated flasher strikes, accosting mall customers and employees alike — including Ronnie’s object of lust, bimbo-fied Brandi (Anna Faris), a cosmetics clerk who’s a walking advertisement for her wares. (And not a good one, either.)

Much to Ronnie’s dismay, somebody calls the cops — embodied by cocky Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta), whom Ronnie considers a threat to his hard-won authority.

And Ronnie doesn’t deal with threats very well. Not because he’s bipolar (but of course), but because he’s … Ronnie.

Writer-director Jody Hill (HBO’s "Eastbound & Down") sketched a similarly obsessive character in "The Foot Fist Way," which featured Danny McBride ("Pineapple Express," "Tropic Thunder") as a jaw-droppingly obnoxious martial arts instructor.

Ronnie’s just as jaw-droppingly obnoxious, and equally absurd, yet he didn’t strike me as the slightest bit funny. (Funny strange, to be sure, but hardly funny ha-ha.)

Maybe it’s because Ronnie revels in his role of self-appointed vigilante — more angry, alienated Travis Bickle (of "Taxi Driver" fame) than the lovable lug of "Paul Blart: Mall Cop."

Or maybe it’s because Hill can’t transform his outrageous characters — and their over-the-top antics — into remotely credible beings.

Time and again, "Observe and Report" cranks up the outrageousness, but Hill never displays the slightest interest in directorial control, opting instead for scattershot, over-the-top anarchy.

Yes, Hill’s got the gung-ho thing down cold. And no one’s expecting mind-your-manners restraint in a movie that’s all about Ronnie giving vent to his rage-a-holic impulses.

Yet there’s a difference between fearlessness and obliviousness. "Observe and Report" all too often falls victim to the latter, relentlessly bashing you over the head with a sledgehammer until the inevitable headache sets in — at which time it starts bashing you over the head all over again.

It’s downright painful to watch such talented types as Michael Peña (as Ronnie’s out-there assistant) and Celia Weston (Ronnie’s boozehound mother) grovel for strained laughs. Liotta and Faris fare slightly better; typecast as they are, their established personas do much of their work for them.

Rogen, meanwhile, burrows into his psychologically twisted role with dogged, almost desperate determination.

He succeeds in burying that sweet, goofy guy we’ve come to love in previous movies — but I missed him.

After all, that sweet, goofy guy was always funny. And his replacement in "Observe and Report" is anything but.

Contact movie critic Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

Entertainment Videos
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taste of the Town: Henderson Booze District
Those who like to support local businesses and sample local products will find the best concentration in an unlikely spot: a Henderson industrial park.
Founder of theatre talks about a favorite play
Ann Marie Pereth, founder of A Public Fit Theatre Company, speaks to the Review-Journal about which play she would see every day if only given one option. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N interactive exhibit
The new exhibit features original and recreated props and plenty of interactive features. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas
The Writer's Block and Lucy are open in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas ice cream shop offers everything in the kitchen sink
Have you ever wanted to eat an ice cream sundae out of a kitchen sink? Who hasn't, right? At Sloan's, located inside the Venetian, you can do just that. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Maxie’s in Las Vegas puts eggs Benedict in a box
Chef David Mangual at Maxie’s in The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas makes his eggs Benedict in a brioche “box” layered with spinach, bacon and tomatoes and topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caviar Twinkie Served at Stripsteak in Las Vegas
Stripsteak Executive Pastry Chef Vivian Chang and Chef Gerald Chin create a novel savory food item that looks like a familiar sweet treat at the restaurant in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
NAB attendees battle to qualify for Fortnite event
NAB is sponsoring an online video game event with Epic Games’ Fortnite allowing attendees to qualify to go head to head with top players. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Arctic Shrimp Sandwich at Saga near Las Vegas
Chef Gert Kvalsund, a native of Norway, founded Saga Pastry + Sandwich in Henderson to give Scandinavians a taste of home. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk UNLVino
Guy Fieri and Sammy Hagar talk about the upcoming UNLVino vent. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Christie Brinkley at Smith & Wollensky
Christie Brinkley, in town for her run in “Chicago” at the Venetian Theatre, paid a visit to the Grand Canal Shoppes’ still-under-construction Smith Wollensky on Monday for a ceremonial first toast at the bar. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Two artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas
2 artists create a mural for peace in Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside Kaos nightclub and dayclub
A look at new club at Palms.
CinemaCon Brings Theater Professionals To Caesars
CinemaCon is not just celebs, it's also a place where theater owners can browse the latest in seats, projectors and concessions. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas restaurants provide a taste of ballpark food
The Las Vegas Ballpark, home to the Las Vegas Aviators, will serve food from Giada De Laurentiis and a team of favorite local restaurants. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Taste of the Town: Bobby Flay Opens Shark at the Palms - VIDEO
Bobby Flay opens Shark at the Palms; his first high-end restaurant in 15 years.
Chef Marc Marrone at T-Mobile Arena
Chef Marc Marrone has opened a bao cart at T-Mobile Arena. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio fountains celebrate 'Game of Thrones'
A medley of the theme for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and the song “Winter Is Here” from the show premiered at the Bellagio Fountains water show on the Las Vegas Strip on Sunday, March 31, 2019. The new number will run in rotation through April 13. The series premieres its eighth and final series on April 14. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegan Aunt Chippy talks about being on Jimmy Kimmel's show
Concetta Potenza, Aunt “Chippy” to Jimmy Kimmel, talks about her first time being featured on her nephew’s show. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro at Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails
The "Flight Unknown" At Bar Centro At Bazaar Meats Las Vegas Features 5 Innovative Cocktails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Cotton candy crowns pancakes in Las Vegas
At Maxie’s at The Linq Promenade in Las Vegas, executive chef David Mangual fills pancakes with fruit and cream cheese and piles on pastel cotton candy, which is melted in a stream of chocolate syrup. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Bananas Foster Pancakes go up in flames at The Stove near Las Vegas
Chef Antonio Nunez at The Stove in Henderson, near Las Vegas, flames the pancakes tableside for a fiery presentation. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
El Loco Rollercoaster at Circus Circus' Adventuredome
The El Loco rollercoaster opened at the Circus Circus' Adventuredome in February 2014. It features a 90-foot ascent, followed by a drop that produces a negative 1.5 "verticle G," a 180-degree turn, and reverse 240-degree roll that turns into an inverted drop. The coaster reaches a maximum speed of 45 mph and is the only indoor coaster of it's kind in the U.S., and is the second indoor El Loco coaster in the world, according to MGM Resorts.
Bartending flair competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show
Highlights from the ten contestants who competed for the Shake It Up Flair and Classic Competition at the Nightclub & Bar Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Justin Kingsley Hall shares details on his next gig
Chef Justin Kinglsey hall shares some details about the newArts District restaurant he's developing with Kim Owens. (Al Mancini/Las Vegs Review-Journal)
Film prompted Carrie Hogan to found 2 farmers markets in Las Vegas
Carrie Hogan founded Fresh 52 Farmers and Artisan Market in Las Vegas after realizing she had to do something about the influence of factory farms on the food supply. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Seafood dishes being made at Pasta Shop near Las Vegas
Executive chef Edwin Martinez incorporates fresh pasta into Lobster Salmon and Saffron Shrimp Sauté at Pasta Shop Ristorante & Art Gallery in Henderson, near Las Vegas. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
Andrew Carmean will be the only local participant in upcoming demolition derby
Andrew Carmean, a demolition driver, will be the only local participant in upcoming derby at the Plaza Hotel. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Masso Osteria first anniversary in Las Vegas
Scott Conant was in town Tuesday to host a one-year anniversary party for his Red Rock Resort restaurant Masso Osteria.
TOP NEWS
Home Front Page Footer Listing