Seth Rogen seemed to have an unstoppable box office reign going for several years until 2009 proved that he was, in fact, fallible. It started with the animated Monsters vs. Aliens and spread into Observe and Report (we’ll discount Funny People as it received solid reviews), the Rogen starring comedy about a mall cop who aspires to be more. While we already had one mall cop film that performed shockingly well earlier in the year, there was hope that this Rogen comedy would find a similar audience…but it ultimately didn’t pan out.
Bargain hunters at Forest Ridge Mall get more than they bargained for: a chubby flasher in a ratty bathrobe. They’re repulsed. Security guard Ronnie Barnhardt isn’t: “This disgusting pervert is the best thing that ever happened to me!” Catching the flasher may be his ticket to a real police job and to romance with a hot cosmetics-counter princess. Only one thing stands between Ronnie and destiny: a tall, handsome cop who actually knows what he’s doing. Seth Rogen, Anna Faris and Ray Liotta star in this mall-to-wall comedy covering acres of wild, sometimes raunchy, up-in-your-grill funny – all under one roof.
And I’ll tell you why it didn’t pan out—this was a Jody Hill movie. Now I loved what Hill did on Eastbound and Down, but Observe and Report suffers from the same symptoms that Hill’s first film, The Foot Fist Way did—it’s so damn abrasive at times that you can’t even laugh at it. The humor is brutal, sometimes so black you question its morality and as a result you want to laugh so hard at it…but you just can’t. Something about the joke doesn’t work and you instead just chuckle and begin to ponder that if maybe it was delivered another way you would have laughed at it.
But I knew going into the film that it was going to be dark. It almost parallels Death to Smoochy in that it has a great cast of characters, but it’s just so dark and mean at times that you can’t really ever get into it. Rogen is terrific in the title role and shows off what he can do with such a character, but so often are we given other characters material and scenes that just doesn’t work and Rogen’s character has to come back in to make it all a bit more logical. Then that doesn’t always work and in the end we just end up with a giant mess.
This isn’t to say that all of the jokes don’t hit. Quite a few of them were so perfect they were like computer guided missiles. When the jokes worked they were genuine winners and I was laughing my head off at quite a few of them. But that’s the problem—there were few of them. As much as I wanted to laugh at the rest of the film I just couldn’t. It either just didn’t work out or it was terribly uninteresting. None of the supporting cast was all that likeable (Ray Liotta especially was just pure annoyance) and just about the only one I did enjoy was Danny McBride’s brief appearance.
Despite the negative reviews I was looking forward to this film, if only for Rogen and Hill. But I ended up leaving it with almost the exact same set of feelings as I had toward Foot Fist–fantastic cast, great title character/actor…bad execution. At least in the case of Fist I found the ending to be the final straw in the coffin (especially when you compared it to the alternate ending which I found a lot darker and more in tone with the rest of the film). For Observe it was the opposite, as the end to the flasher was beautifully brutal and executed in just about the greatest way imaginable. I also found it fitting that we were all subjected to the horrors that everyone else was, as we saw the nudist in a full frontal right before he met his end.
In the end Observe and Report is worth a Rental if you enjoy dark comedies, but even then this film just doesn’t always work out. I really and truly wanted to enjoy it and figured it would be right up my alley…but the darkness in this one was just too much.
And so continues Warner’s trend (or is this the start of it?) of Blu-ray’s getting all the bonus features while the DVDs get nothing. Perhaps I’m blind to it because I’ve already adopted the Blu-ray format, but I can see Warner’s perspective on the whole issue: hardcore movie buffs, the ones who actually watch the extras have either adopted the format or just need that extra push to adopt it. The rest of the public really doesn’t watch a whole lot of the DVD extras per say…although what is included here actually isn’t even all that out of the ordinary. The set itself arrives in a two-disc (second disc = digital copy) Elite Blu case with the usual round of inserts and a cardboard o-sleeve that replicates the art underneath it.
Video arrives in the form of a VC-1 encoded 2.40:1 transfer that is what you’d expect from a modern film. There’s a bit of grain that I was surprised to see, but other than that it’s a really clean and clear transfer through and through. I can’t say the 1080p transfer really helped my enjoyment of it (1080p penis isn’t desirable to all. Or any, really.), but the vivid colors of the mall and everything else about the film just really looked spectacular. The TrueHD 5.1 audio is a bit subdued but still forceful enough when it counts, especially with the fights that break out in the film. I should also mention those, I suppose—the fights in the film are really quite hilarious and awesome, especially the first one that Rogen gets into with McBride’s character; his triumphant return to the police station was brilliant.
The sets extras start off with a Picture-in-Picture Seth Rogen, Anna Farris, and Jody Hill Commentary Track that is really the highlight of the set. Audio commentaries are great but visual ones are also a treat, especially when it comes to such a funny group of people. There’s a quick behind-the-scenes bit with Seth Rogen & Anna Farris: Unscripted, but then we move onto the other more modest extras with Basically Training and Forest Ridge Mall: Security Recruitment Video. The recruitment video especially is an entertaining watch if you enjoyed the film at all. And of course no comedy (even the dark kind) home video release would be complete without a proper Deleted Scenes / Alternate Jokes and Gag Reel, both sets of which are highly entertaining.
Overall I found myself digging the commentary and moderate extras more entertaining than the movie itself. I did appreciate it a bit more after the commentary and the PiP function was definitely a nice treat. A Recommended release if you enjoy the film, but I strongly recommend a rental first.
Observe and Report arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on September 22nd.