Observe and Report
This one’s going to start arguments. As he did in The Foot Fist Way, writer/director Hill builds his film around an unappealing person with an inflated sense of his own importance. Ronnie Barnhardt (Rogen) is an inept blowhard mall cop, and he’s like Paul Blart’s more psychologically unbalanced, less comically cutesy doppelgänger. Like Blart, he lives with his mom (Weston), but Ronnie’s mom is a drunk whose scenes start as comedy but end in unsettling weirdness. Ronnie’s infatuation with cosmetics-counter worker Brandi (Faris, brilliant and underutilized) is expressed in ways that call for a restraining order.
Hill is interested in the border between comedy and pathology, and the film is being marketed as both funny and transgressive. True enough, as far as it goes; when the mall cops get high and beat up skateboarders, you may laugh, but you’ll feel a little sick to your stomach for having laughed. That feeling is Hill’s goal, but he doesn’t go far enough. Just when the film takes us to the edge of real discomfort, he chickens out with a joke. Those looking for a comedy that’s truly dark and transgressive, with whom we fully expect to be arguing, should be aware that there are better versions of transgression out there. Just go rent The King of Comedy.