There are have been many things that have emerged from Hollywood’s creative pipehole that we should marvel at. I am presently marvelling at the way that one of the largest cultural factories is able to cater to its audiences needs, no matter how small, seemingly worthless or marginal; no minority interest is deemed unworthy - a remarkable and noble approach.
Until very recently one such group was being repeatedly overlooked, but now their prayers have been answered. They are the People Who Want Underwhelming Flat Comedies About Fat Loser Shopping Mall Security Guards With Personality Issues And Futile Dreams Of Being A Cop - and now they can suffer on the fringes no more.
First Hollywood benevolently gave them Paul Blart: Mall Cop, then realising that that alone couldn’t make up for 140 years of cinematic neglect, they followed it up swiftly with the similarly themed Observe And Report.
While Paul Blart appealed to the younger members of the aforementioned clan with its inoffensive family-friendly hi-jinx, O&S reaches out to those Woeful Mall Cop Movie buffs who have waited many a year for their time in the multiplex sun, and are therefore more able to stomach a more fruitier approach to retail security issues.
Head of security Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogan) has a lot on his plate – there’s a flasher who’s targeting his mall and terrorising his love interest, trashy cosmetics girl Brandi (Anna Faris), while a spate of robberies are also happening under his watch. Ronnie’s a big man when it comes to both talking and failing, so his boss calls in real cop Dt Harrison (Ray Liotta) to solve the problems.
This doesn’t sit well with Ronnie, who sees these as his cases, and that Harrison is intruding on his patch. After butting heads, Ronnie decides it’s time to ram Harrison’s perfectly reasonable put-downs back down his throat by trying out to become a cop.
This throws Ronnie’s misguided and ultimately miserable life into focus, a life played out in all its depressing glory, thanks to an alcoholic mum and Ronnie’s astounding dating skills. Some more stuff happens along the way, then the film ends in a very curious downbeat is-that-a-happy-ending-or-not kind of way.
That kind of confusion seems to sums up the whole film. Taking both a scat and scattergun approach, O&S goes for cheap gags above all else, to the point that the film sacrifices any form of cohesion or flow. The smut rarely hits the spot, and more feels like an attempt to see how offensive they can be.
Both Rogan and Faris have the chops to pull that kind of stuff off, but the jokes just don’t cut it. None of the main characters seem to be in any way likeable, so it’s even harder to sustain any interest - Rogan can play twats with softer sides, but here he’s a twat without a redeeming side, which makes the suggestion of his mental illness, unsurprisingly treated with little care, all the more jarring and uncomfortable.
Both Liotta and Faris are left in similar states – both bland outlines of characters with no depth of charm, given poor direction and a weak script. There’s no interplay between any of them, no dynamic that could have added any dimension to the film. Fans of casual racism will be happy though.
At one point, Harrison’s colleague hides in a cupboard so he can eavesdrop on Ronnie getting a wake-up call from Liotta’s character. Halfway through he emerges and leaves, saying: “You know, I thought this was gonna be funny, but it’s actually quite sad”. That says it all.
Basically I should have just had that as my review. Sure you’ll find the odd great line in there – but isn’t that what YouTube’s for?
Starring: Seth Rogan, Ray Liotta, Anna Faris
Directed by: Jody Hill
Extras: Commentaries, featurettes, gag reel