It ended as awkwardly as it began, perhaps even more so with an explosion of full frontal male nudity and gore.
I went in to Observe and Report, Seth Rogen's latest vehicle, forewarned that some of the subject matter was going to be offensive. That the film would try to take comedy to a dark place, not usually trod upon in films that reach wide release.
Rogen, since he came back into our lives a few years ago with The 40 Year Old Virgin, has been the poster boy of the new child-man comedy. His characters embody a lost generation that, to paraphrase Britney Spears, are not boys but they're not yet men. In the end it always worked out that the great lumbering children would learn something from their experiences (be it in making a porno, getting Steve Carrell laid or getting Katherine Hiegl knocked up) and at some level they always maintained a core of innocence. Ignorance is bliss after all.
Observe and Report takes this phenomenon in a different direction.
Rogen plays mall cop Ronnie Barnhardt, the man child gone horribly awry. Barnhardt moves through a world of his own making, taking his job watching over some anonymous suburban mall far too seriously. At first it seems like a caricature of the mall cop that every mall rat (or person that has seen Mallrats) is familiar with, the thug too inept to have made it as a cop taking out his failure on those around him. Ronnie is violent, Ronnie is delusional and Ronnie is dangerous.
Which brings us back to the film's end, where Ronnie triumphantly drags the body of his wounded foe to the police station like some kind of medieval trophy. He deposits the man on the steps, tells off the police and rides off in his golf cart to be lauded as a hero and get the girl.
Along the way Ronnie shows little compassion for anyone, save his alcoholic mother. Up until the last act, his relationships with Nell consists primarily of him offerning passive insults. After neglectfully helping mall hottie Brandi (Anna Faris) a potent combination of anti-psychotics and alcohol, he takes her back home and has sex with her while she's passed out. The attempt to make a joke out of date rape has been explored elsewhere [Jezebel.com].
Ronnie soon goes off his medication and over the deep end in a montage of drug use, vandalism and violence.
Now that I've spoiled the plot, what is there left to say about this film? It certainly twisted expectations, bringing us a dark clwon instead of a good-hearted man-boy. You might even say that it subverts the whole man-child mythos along with the violent machismo you encounter in films about the police.
The one thing you won't say is that it was all that funny. There is little to recommend this film, and it fails to even equal the sum of its parts. Rogen fails to make his anti-hero palatable and the whole epxerience left me feeling a little dirty and a little uncomfortable.