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Observe and Report

Just what we don't need: Another unfunny comedy about a mall cop

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The latest, from Jody Hill and starring Seth Rogen as a bipolar security guard with a variety of "issues," is strenuously obnoxious. Undoubtedly, some folks will find this "edginess" funny, but while I'm open to button-pushing laughs, Observe missed the mark. The film's clunkiness doesn't help: If you can see the cast working, the jokes are gonna fall flat. Trendy meta techniques aside, a successful comedy requires a certain seamlessness: Within its context, its absurdities should feel natural and familiar. This doesn't preclude outrageousness (think of Borat), but Hill aims first for shock value, and second for laughs. Then there's the lazy writing, covered up simply by spewing profanity. Seriously, one scene in this film is just two guys saying "fuck you" repeatedly; funny when I was 8, maybe. Observe lies within that new strata of humor whose hallmark is belligerent attitude: A hapless, self-deluded, unlikable protagonist trumps his inadequacies with misdirected anger and obnoxious behavior. (See also: Hill's debut, The Foot Fist Way; his HBO series Eastbound and Down; and 2007's Hot Rod.) But Rogen is better than this, and suppressing his amiable likability to play this witless jerk doesn't net him many laughs. Indeed, Celia Weston, as his alcoholic mom, and Anna Faris, as his no-way crush, easily steal their scenes from Rogen. When a film grabs its biggest laughs by depicting a middle-aged man running around naked, why even bother hiring a star?

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