"Having controversial material in a film doesn't automatically make it funny"
Seth Rogen is an actor almost everyone is familiar with these days, being somewhat of a golden boy when it comes to hit comedy movies such as Superbad, Knocked Up and Pine Apple Express. He invariably plays likable but bumbling characters and by and large these films tend to be amusing if unambitious fare. Observe and Report is another by-the-numbers comedy but with all humour stripped out and replaced by a shocking mean-streak that leave you stunned for all the wrong reasons.
Ronnie Barnhart (Rogen) is the Head of Mall Security. Suffering from delusions of grandeur, Ronnie acts like he's the sheriff of an Old Western town, doling out justice where he sees fit. When a flasher invades his turf and threatens his unrequited love Brandi (Anna Faris), he ends up competing with genuine cop, Detective Harrison (Ray Liotta) for the case.
The problem with this film is its wild inconsistencies; it veers from light-hearted one moment to shockingly indecent the next. Scenes involving date rape, the glorification of hard drug use, the revelation of Ronnie's bi-polar disorder, Ronnie's alcoholic mother (Celia Westron), bullying, theft and racial abuse are dropped in out of nowhere and treated with no sensitivity. This comes across as distasteful rather than funny and the natural reaction is stunned uncomfortable silence rather than belly laughs.
Films such as Superbad succeeded because of the sympathy you had for the lovable-loser protagonists but Ronnie is about as unlikable as you can get; he's irresponsible, violent, crude and reactionary and not endearing in any way. And because he's not a likable character, you can't forgive him for any of the unspeakable things he does and the attempts to shock leave a bad taste in your mouth. Not only that, you can't ever imagine anyone else liking him either and so it's unbelievable that the coffee girl (Collette Wolfe) he chides every day could even be remotely interested in him.
Having controversial material in a film doesn't automatically make it funny and here it's been used as a short cut to cover up some of the film's deficiencies in plot, character and script.
It's possibly the most charmless and witless film there's been in a long time, populated by despicable and unfunny characters with a lazy and uninspiring script. Observe and Report? I'd rather watch paint dry.