Occasionally a comedy comes along that's just so weird or mean-spirited that studios just don't know how to market it. I'm thinking The Cable Guy, Super or even Neighbors, back in the day.
Observe And Report, be warned, isn't the Paul Blart: Mall Cop-style knockabout cartoon comedy it was sold as. In fact, this is the much darker tale of what happens when a deluded, if well-meaning, sociopath goes off his meds. Seth Rogen, in possibly his best role to date, plays Ronnie, head of mall security, who takes his job a little too seriously. When a flasher repeatedly invades the mall, the police are called in and Ray Liotta's cop begins a routine investigation which Ronnie promptly interferes with, thinking he's on some sort of one-man crusade to protect Anna Faris' odious perfume salesgirl. He takes the case into his own hands, which inspires him to try and join the police force and ask Faris out.
Both plans, of course, backfire.
It's good to see a comedy not take the usual predictable avenues we expect it to go for. If Superbad was the bizarro American Pie then Observe And Report is the bizarro Paul Blart. And it's at least 100 times better and funnier for it. Rogen, it turns out, makes a terrific psycho while still making us care about his character. He's bi-polar and his flip-outs are pretty intense but on some level you are on his side, you are part of that crusade, no matter how much things escalate. Perhaps the fact he's mostly surrounded by worse people than he helps that along. Ronnie has issues but he's just an unlucky dude, Liotta and Faris are just naturally, carelessly cruel.
The film doesn't sugarcoat anything, you've got probably the most uncomfortable date in movie history in which Faris gets hammered and takes a bunch of pills before being reduced to a vomiting vegetable as her and Ronnie have sex, you've got several instances of glorious, gratuitous violence and F-bombs scattered throughout. It's great. It's also constantly very funny thanks to a sharp script, some nifty improv and brilliant timing. Watch out for some fun cameos by Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari as well. But the movie doesn't forget to have some kind of a heart as Ronnie's relationship with Collette Wolfe's fast-food restaurant cashier Nell is genuinely sweet, as is his relationship with his alcoholic mother and the way his co-workers stick with him during an especially violent freak-out involving a flash-light is also weirdly adorable.
Overall, Observe And Report is one of those underrated movies destined for cult adoration. If Knocked-Up is your type of thing then you might want to try something else, otherwise stick around and you'll have a ball. This is a dark, twisted, brutal, fun comedy that's well worth checking out.