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It’s a shame that Paul Blart came out the same year as Jody Hill’s darkly funny film, Observe and Report. Unfortunately, this film will always be referred to as “that other mall cop movie,” and it deserves better than that. While Paul Blart featured a mall cop who took too much pride in his job, Observe and Report features a mall cop who has too much pride in himself.
As played by Seth Rogen, Ronnie Barnhardt is a delusional egotist relishing in his perceived importance. The humor of the story comes from the contrast between the way Barnhardt sees himself in the world, and the way the audience sees the sad reality of his situation. As stated above, the humor in this movie is really dark. It’s hard to identify with such an unlikable character, and while this movie isn’t for everybody, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Barnhardt himself is, in essence, one of the villains of the film. When a flasher targets Brandi, an employee in cosmetics, he takes it upon himself to become her protector. In doing so, he ends up practically stalking her. Anna Farris plays Brandi as a drunken, obnoxious party girl, and is almost as unlikable as he is.
It’s a fascinating approach to a comedy, making every character so unsympathetic. There really is no rooting interest in the film beyond Nell, a potential love interest working in the food court. Nell is the only genuinely nice person in the film, and for some inexplicable reason, she has a crush on Barnhardt. However, his obsession with Brandi makes him oblivious.
Ray Liotta also stands out as a detective named Harrison, brought in to investigate a series of robberies that have taken place. Of course, he instantly clashes with Barnhardt. Feeling just as important than Harrison, if not more so, the presence of this character only serves to height Barnhardt’s delusion, even inspiring him to try becoming a cop himself. This tension between these characters provides a great deal of the film’s humor.
This is not a laugh-out-loud movie. The humor is very situational and derived entirely from the characters. You will either buy into this violent, over-the-top world, or you won’t. It’s unique to find a comedy that doesn’t follow the same patterns you’ve seen over and over again. I never knew where the story was going, and was thoroughly impressed that the filmmakers had the guts to make something so unique to itself.
The Blu-Ray has some great extras that actually serve to enhance the film. The finished film runs 87 minutes, and it really feels as if there is a lot of missing material. The Blu-Ray contains much of this missing footage. Most of it is surprisingly good, and helps flesh out some of the characters and their motivations. There are some plot jumps in the film which this material helps to fill in as well. I don’t know why this was all cut, but it’s definitely worth watching. There is also the usual gag reel, commentaries, etc. All entertaining, but they don’t serve to enhance the story the way this missing footage did.
This movie contains a really talented group of people. Most of them have been in more mainstream films, and have proven themselves to be genuinely funny actors. It’s nice to see them stepping away from the generic stereotypical roles, and playing something with a bit more of an edge to it. Beyond the superficial similarities, this movie is nothing like Paul Blart. There are going to be a lot of people who really hate this film, and I can completely understand why. But if you’re looking for something a little different, and definitely not for the kids, than I highly recommend Observe and Report.