Super Carnitas reviews Observe and Report
Writer – Jody Hill
Director – Jody Hill
A funny thing happened in 2009…there were two mall cop movies. I’m pretty sure, in the entire history of mainstream, American film….there had never been a mall cop movie, and in 2009 we got two. One was a light-hearted, marginally successful, cookie-cutter…family…comedy. The other was Observe and Report.
If this film was advertised to show what it actually was…I would have seen it in theaters. But no, the clips and commercials I’d seen made it look like just another Seth Rogen comedy. Which isn’t really a bad thing..I just was in no rush to see it. So I ended up not seeing it…until a couple of days ago. Holy shit.
Now I have to admit…my friend Conor once said to me..something like…”Hey…you should see Observe and Report. It’s pretty dark…I think you’d like it.” That comment has always lingered in my head…but still…I never really made an effort to see it….until a couple of days ago. Holy shit.
Seth Rogen is pitch-perfect as Ronnie…head security guard at the local mall. His role is established early on as we see him dressing down a couple of co-workers and in another scene where he is being interviewed by a local news reporter. The news reporter disrespects him and it leads to the movies first hilarious line…”I’m standing here with this doctor.”.
The story starts off with a flasher exposing himself to women in the mall parking lot. This gives Ronnie something to focus on. A case. It also sets up our introduction to Brandi (Anna Faris)….the makeup girl in the department store. The most beautiful girl in the entire mall…according to Ronnie. And me. Ronnie promises to keep her safe from the perverted flasher. She’s uninterested at best.
So far..it’s pretty much your run of the mill comedy. But then we get a peek at what this movie really is. A tiny peek. Ronnie….and the two Asian twin security guards that work with him…are at a shooting range. They are firing off a variety of assault weapons with deadly accuarcy…and complaining about not being allowed to carry guns as mall security guards. Tazers and mace is all they are allowed to carry. Jody Hill brilliantly sets the tone for the film with this scene.
From here the movie is delivered to us through a series of events. Of course most movies unfold through a series of events, but the events in this movie come at us like the ticks of a ticking time bomb. With each scene we get another tick. With each tick comes a greater sense of unease. With each tick our impending doom becomes more real. Our every instinct tells us to brace for the inevitable explosion…but does it come? Hmmm. I’m not sure it does. Let’s see.
A detective (Ray Liotta) arrives to investigate the flasher case after Brandi….the hottest girl in the mall…is flashed. Ronnie, who has a huge crush on Brandi, promised to keep her safe. He didn’t. His attempts to console Brandi fail simply because he doesn’t have the skill set to console another human being. The detective steps in and manages to calm Brandi’s nerves.
A store in the mall is robbed…after hours. Ronnie arrives on the scene…as does the detective. Ronnie starts tossing out accusations without anything to back them up. In the process he reveals himself to be racist and simple-minded. His intentions are good, but they are clearly lining his road to hell.
Ronnie befriends Nell. A woman in a wheelchair who works at a coffee shop in the mall. She greets him each morning with a free cup of coffee.
Ronnie…in an effort to recapture some of his rapidly dwindling stature…decides to join the police force. He learns that he should take a “ride along” with a police officer to see if it’s really for him. He decides to take an impromptu “ride along” with the very same detective that has been encroaching on his territory at the mall. The detective ends up dropping Ronnie off at a very dangerous street corner where he is confronted by a half-dozen, violent, crack dealers. Ronnie brutally deals with the crack dealers and returns to the police station. There he hugs the detective and thanks him for the opportunity.
The layers are peeling away from Ronnie.
Ronnie convinces Brandi to go on a date with him. Seth Rogen is at his best here. His intentions are sweet and true. Childlike. We learn that Ronnie was a special needs child….and his special needs drove his father to leave him and his mother. We assume his special needs drove his mother to alcoholism.
The date is hard to watch. It begins with Brandi not even remembering it in the first place, trying to blow it off…then reluctantly going along. She drinks her way through dinner and only remotely shows interest in Ronnie when she learns that he has prescription meds on him. In a seemingly chivalrous gesture, Ronnie gives the remainder of his meds to Brandi…who indulges in them without hesitation. The drugs and the booze render Brandi incapacitated. She pukes as Ronnie leads her to her front door. The date ends with Ronnie essentially raping Brandi. There is a line thrown in to make it seem consentual…but he’s raping her.
I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a rape scene in Paul Blart Mall Cop.
It’s time for the pivotal scene in the movie. Ronnie’s psych exam. Ronnie must pass this psych exam to be considered a candidate for the police force. During the interview process Ronnie tells us about a dream he has “most nights”. In this dream he’s happy and joyful until a “cloud of bad things” approaches. He takes it upon himself to systematically blow away everyone and everything that stands in his way with his trusty shotgun. In his dream he saves the day and becomes everyone’s hero. He ends the telling of this dream by mockingly shooting his shotgun repeatedly at the interviewer..and smiling.
Ronnie leaves the mall and goes to the police station where he learns he failed his psych exam and didn’t make the force. The detective attempts to mock him while delivering the news by having another officer hide in the closet and listen in. In a rare example of a character summing up an entire movie in one line…the officer, as he exits the closet, says “i thought this was going to be funny…but it’s just sad.”
Ronnie, defeated, goes back to his job at the mall. The girl he gets coffee from every morning is being harassed by her manager. Ronnie steps in and defends her.
It’s close now. The bomb is about to go off. Ronnie…near the end of his rope…connects with Dennis (Michael Pena)…his top security guard. The pair bond through drugs and mayhem. At the peak of their bonding…Dennis reveals himself to be a criminal. He offers Ronnie a chance to be his partner in crime. Ronnie refuses…and is knocked out for his decision. Dennis escapes.
Ronnie…at his lowest point, decides to go undercover to catch the flasher in an attempt to redeem himself. Instead he discovers Brandi and the detective having sex in her car. He confronts Brandi in the mall and smashes a jewelry case to illustrate his frustration. Ronnie loses his job….and refuses to leave the mall…the police arrive..
The police try to subdue Ronnie and he attacks them violently. VIOLENTLY. Taking out at least 6 of them with a flashlight before being taken down and arrested.
In my opinion the movie ends here. I won’t reveal the ending, but I believe the conclusion only exists inside Ronnie’s head. It’s his dream…made real. It’s too good to be true. Ronnie gets arrested…he sits in jail…and we’re treated with his delusions to wrap it all up with a nice little bow. The ticking time bomb that was Ronnie didn’t explode in the end…but fizzled out and failed.
I loved this movie. It was mostly sad…but also really hilarious. Really dark too. Taxi Driver in a mall isn’t much of a stretch. Rogen, Faris, and Liotta were all solid in their roles. And the cameos by Patton Oswalt, Danny McBride, and Aziz Ansari were all golden. There are times when this movie almost starts mocking itself…it kinda walks the line but never really crosses it.
In ten years…people should still be talking about this movie. If they aren’t, then there’s something wrong with people.
“I thought this was going to be funny, but instead it’s just sad.”