Observe and Report is going to surprise many people who go see it this weekend. And perhaps not in a good way.
From the TV spots for Seth Rogen’s new movie, you might think he’s revisiting the irresponsible-yet-good-hearted cop character he played in Superbad (i.e. the irresponsible-yet-good-hearted character he’s played in all his movies so far). Probably not the case. The trailer suggests that Rogen is playing a delusional semi-racist petty authoritarian with a gun fixation, a fragile ego, and no hope outside his demented fantasies. Those viewers who want Paul Blart crossed with Knocked Up might not expect this.
Director Jody Hill, who hails from my part of the country, isn’t a stranger to this territory. His debut feature was the dark indie comedy The Foot Fist Way (filmed in Concord, NC!), which starred the incredible Danny McBride as Fred Simmons, a delusional petty authoritarian Tae Kwon Do instructor with a violent streak, a fragile ego, and no hope outside his demented fantasies. Will Ferrell’s films have prepared audiences to sympathize with such man-children, and for the first half of “The Foot Fist Way” Jody Hill takes that sympathy and rubs it in our faces.
If there’s a justification for this kind of movie, it’s that our culture is littered with egotistical thwarted alpha males. Fred Simmons and Rogen’s Ronnie Barnhardt are the detritus of the culture of narcissism. What does Jody Hill trying to say about such men? I’d like to believe he’s aiming at the Southern gothic, but I worry that what begins as dark satire ends as twisted celebration. Furthermore, Hill, McBride, and their collaborators are working with yet another version of this character in HBO’s future cult classic Eastbound & Down. Will they stretch this approach too thin?
Unfortunately for me, the movie opens on Friday, which also happens to be Good Friday. So Jody Hill’s Presbyterian fans probably won’t go to see Observe and Report until sometime next week.