Sunday, April 12, 2009

Almost there: Observe and Report

Ronnie: Dammit. We were *so* close.

Det. Harrison: Oh, if only ...

Yes, if only. If only Observe and Report had gone all the way*, rather than trying to mix a brilliantly uncomfortable story of a delusional, bipolar mall cop (Seth Rogen) with scenes that seemed to exist merely to be outrageous/funny and appeal to the the Rogen/Judd Apatow crowd (Danny McBride as a drug dealer? Again?).

*And I'm not talking about this part.

Because O&R really was onto something here. Sure, some of those ridiculous moments are quite funny, but -- as has been mentioned elsewhere -- the film has a less-moody Taxi Driver feel to it, but doesn't completely follow through on it. It didn't have Scorsese/De Niro potential, but it certainly could have existed in a nearby zip code.

Rogen and writer/director Jody Hill portray cop Ronnie Barnhardt's manic-depressive state so subtly (and smartly), it's almost an aside. Really, Ronnie's what happened to that high school outcast who didn't fit into any of those "nerdy" or "artsy" categories. He doesn't think he's a loser. Far from it. So what we have here is a character on the edge, a dreamer without a distinct goal, just someone looking for ... something, whatever it is, that confirms he's as great as he believes.

Which is a scary and intriguing setup, something that could have kept its share of comedic moments while existing in even darker territory, rather than jolting awkwardly between hilarious and frightening.

Which is why O&R falls into the category of "good, not great."

If only ...

... for Rogen's performance, which had better earn him consideration for the Golden Globes Best Actor/Musical or Comedy category*.

*And while we're at it, why are musicals still a part of this category? How is playing Cole Porter even remotely similar to playing Dewey Cox? Let's change this before Daniel Day-Lewis becomes the next musical star to steal a Globe nod from a deserving comic actor.

... for filming in a near-vacant mall in Albuquerque, N.M.

... for "born-again virgin."

... for a cathartic moment involving stand-up "comic" Patton Oswalt.

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