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Observe and Report (2009)

Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/22/2009

All Ratings out of
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/13/2009

If someone had told you that 2009 was going to be the year of the mall security guard at the movies, what would that have meant to you? I would have assumed that there would be a new rule where you would have to take a mall security guard to the movies at least once...maybe as a thank you. But, on January 16, 2009, Paul Blart: Mall Cop hit theaters and became a surprise hit, bringing in nearly $150 million. Observe and Report, another movie about a mall security guard, opened about three months later and barely made a dent in the box office. Was this because America had already had their fill on mall cops, or was there something wrong with the movie itself?

Seth Rogen stars in Observe and Report as Ronnie Barnhardt, head of security at a shopping mall. Ronnie takes his job very seriously, and often berates the guards who work under him for not living up to his standards. He lives at home with his mother (Celia Weston), who is an alcoholic. Ronnie has a crush on Brandi (Anna Farris), who works at the cosmetics counter in a department store. When a flasher exposes himself to several women in the mall parking lot, including Brandi, Ronnie makes it his mission to catch the man. Things become more complicated when one of the mall stores is robbed. Police detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) is brought in to investigate both situations, but Ronnie resents having the police on his turf. Frustrated with his life and situation, Ronnie decides to join the police himself. Does he have what it takes?

Given that description, Observe and Report sounds very similar to Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and the films are alike in many ways. Both offer a mall security guard who takes his job very seriously and is seen as a joke by the other mall employees. In both films, the main character falls in love with a pretty mall employee. In both films, the main character attempts to join the police force. Both movies have a major crime taking place in the mall, where the main character must tackle the situation. While the stories are undeniably similar in many respects, Observe and Report is much different in tone from the Kevin James hit.

Observe and Report comes from writer/director Jody Hill, who previously made The Foot Fist Way and Eastbound & Down, both of which starred Danny McBride. (McBride has a cameo in Observe and Report.) Hill, with the apparent approval of mentors Will Ferrell and Adam McKay has attempted to perfect a brand of comedy featuring an anti-hero. Now, anti-heroes have existed for years in action films, such as the Dirty Harry series or Escape from New York. In these movies, the main character (typically a man) plays by his own rules, doesn't care who gets hurt, and still manages to save the day (mostly). In Hill's work, we are presented with surly, narcissistic, and often delusional characters who, for lack of a better word, are jerks. These men live in their own worlds where they can do no wrong and everyone around them is simply a hindrance. They insult others, often physically hurt others, and feel no remorse for their actions. This kind of person might play well in an action film, but in a comedy, this character would have to be so absurd that they would be a caricature of a real person. Ferrell and McKay were able to pull this off in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, as the cartoonish Ricky had a fall from grace.

However, the same can't be said for Ronnie Barnhardt. Here is a character who has a diagnosed psychological disorder, and has obvious delusions of grandeur. He isn't just an arrogant moron like Kenny Powers, he is an individual with a lot of problems. He is played straight, as is most of the movie. Ronnie is incredibly unlikable, as are most of the characters in the film. The movie feels like it is one long argument scene, as Ronnie is constantly getting into verbal sparring matches with everyone around him. The movie doesn't pull any punches with language, sex, or violence, and it often goes to places which are completely unexpected. But, none of these places are funny, entertaining, or interesting.

In many ways, Observe and Report feels like something from the 70s. ala Taxi Driver. I can assume that most viewers will go in expecting a comedy, but what they will find instead is a bleak film which features a main character who has bi-polar disorder and at times has little connection to reality. I've grown tired of Seth Rogen's schtick, but he can be very funny at times, and I usually find Anna Farris to be hilarious. There is very little humor here, and most audience members will give up on laughing on wave after wave of dark material pours over them. The best way to sum up Observe and Report is to say this; it made Paul Blart look good.

Observe and Report chases a nude dude on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc features a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at 22 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only very mild grain and no defects from the source material. The transfer shows good colors, and the blues look especially good. The image is neither too dark or bright. The level of detail and depth is OK, but not great. There is some slight ghosting on the image. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.7 Mbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are fairly solid and the firing range scene offers some nice subwoofer. But, the surround sound is very weak here, and the most that we get is music from the front channels echoed in the rear.

The Observe and Report Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We start with a VIDEO COMMENTARY with Seth Rogen, Anna Faris, and Director Jody Hill. The three speakers appear in a Picture-in-Picture box so that we can see them as they discuss the film. "Basically Training" (7 minutes) opens as a making-of featurette, but then settles down and focuses on the stunts and action in the film -- specifically how actors like Seth Rogen and Danny McBride adjusting to doing action scenes. "Forest Ridge Mall: Security Recruitment Video" (3 minutes) is a faux advertisement for a job at the mall, which features the actors from the film in character. "Seth Rogen & Anna Faris: Unscripted" (8 minutes) explores the improvisation in the film and contains many different takes of the restaurant scene with Ronnie and Brandi, as well as some other moments. The Disc contains 17 ADDITIONAL/EXTENDED SCENES which run about 27 minutes. Most of these feel like longer versions of scenes from the film and no new subplots are brought in here. Finally, we have a 12-minute GAG REEL.

Warner Home Video has also brought Observe and Report to DVD. The DVD contains both the widescreen and fullscreen versions of the film. For the purposes of this review only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The image is somewhat hazy and soft, showing notable artifacting at times. The colors are good, despite the fact that the image is slightly dark. I hadn't expected this to look as good as the Blu-ray, but the presentation here is surprisingly sub-par. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and the in-film music sounds fine. We do get some nice surround during the violent scenes.

There are no extras at all on this DVD.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long