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April 11, 2009

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vadim

Ugh. "Informed consent," I forgot about. But, you know, that would involve treating Faris' caricature as a human being, which is asking a lot.

bill

I was looking forward to this, and still am, sort of, but you review troubles me, Glenn, especially regarding the class bias. Plus, "The Foot Fist Way" left me largely cold. I was left shrugging by that film in much the same way "Napolean Dynamite" did. Neither caused me to laugh that much. I think Danny McBride is, or can be, a funny guy, but I have to wonder about Jody Hill.

Bruce Reid

Definitely weak sauce, never once as daring or disturbing as it thinks it is. Or as uproarious; perhaps the silliest aspect of the Taxi Driver comparisons the filmmakers are apparently encouraging is that Scorsese's film is much funnier. Nothing in Observe and Report has the sick-making comic-to-horrific-and-back torque of Steven Prince's sales pitch, the Senator's reaction to his constituent's rant, or Scorsese's backseat ode to the Magnum .44.

S.F. Hunger

I'm not willing to dismiss Jody Hill outright, because his HBO series "Eastbound and Down" is pretty much the crown jewel of the "delusional, obsessive grotesque" subgenre of comedy. I don't know how much to credit Hill for it, exactly, but it's a thing of beauty regardless, especially the finale of the 6-episode first season, and its creators are completely in control of its tone. I liked Observe and Report more than you did, but there's no question that Eastbound's first season is a more cohesive, purposeful work.

Jovani

Hunger is right. "Eastbound" is a thing of beauty, and probably my absolute favorite thing in 2009. Yep. I'm calling it right now. On that strength alone...I'm still going to have to check this film out.

Moviezzz

I agree with S.F. that EASTBOUND AND DOWN is the far superior work. But David Gordon Green directed half of the episodes. Even though I didn't care for PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, he might have brought more to OBSERVE.

Mess is the same word I used to describe O&R. I mean (SPOILER ALERT) that gunshot at the end was kind of out of nowhere. Is bloody gunplay funny? I wasn't laughing.

Seeing this in a mall theatre, I also have to say malls aren't quite as bad as those in the land of Rodeo Drive would like you to think.

Scott Nye

On the whole, I actually kinda enjoyed the film in a "where-the-hell-is-this-going" kinda way. No doubt its greatest flaw is its inability to find any sort of tone, but I do sort of love that it commits totally to its main character's world view, all the way to the climax. And typically, most movies that follow some sort of subverted viewpoint all the way to the end have some sympathy from me.

I am kinda worried about the people who get really into this, though. There were far too many people cheering for Ronnie in that climax and in that first fight scene (both of which were pretty spectacularly filmed, I thought...showy it may be, but Hill's got some chops). I could easily see this going in a Tyler Durden direction, with a lot of people missing the point of the character. But maybe I'm overly optimistic, and Jody Hill really is a deranged bastard.

MovieMan0283

My sister just saw this and hated it, but she was expecting a straightforward comedy, I think. I must admit I'm intrigued by the movie's attempts at anticomedy, although you don't seem to think they're worth much. Anyway, this line was great: "this is just another case of the constantly-starved-for-defining-the-zeitgeist-celebration-and-opprobrium-culture-coverage maw gnawing on some chum." You nailed it on the condescension as well as the portentious attempts to transmute crumbs of social insight into a feast of political and cultural satire. I guess even now that Bush is out of office, we still get to hear about how every lame-brained comedy is a bold statement of our trouble national psyche (I'm sure I've been guilty from time to time, mea maxima culpa, though I like to think the targets of my overanalysis have been smug yuppies - think Fun With Dick & Jane - rather than "trailer-park America"...).

Max

I agree with Nye. After seeing movies several movies without som much as a pulse, like the unnecessary remake of The Last House on the Left, I appreciated Observe and Report's ability to surprise. I especially enjoyed moments like when Rogen's character started narrating like Batman. These left turns kept me intrigued.

I would not defend this movie to the end of the Earth -- hell, I'm not even sure if I would say it's a GOOD movie, and I may not like it on a second viewing knowing everything that's in store -- but there was a ballsy quality that I enjoy. There aren't many movies that start very formulaic and end up with characters who just start slamming heroin in bathroom stalls. It is, however, a considerably flawed movie, but I'll usually take that any day of the week to a plain boring one.

Dan Coyle

The film follows almost the EXACT same arc as the recent East Bound and Down series... well, up to the penultimate episode. In the season finale Kenny Powers got the much needed check of reality that Ronnie Barnhardt needs.

But here's the thing: Powers' bizarre victory lap, which seems less of a thoughtful look at how the story would logically go than a brazen fuck you to conventionality, is more of a commentary on sports celebrity and how we want the Kenny Powerses of the world to do horrible things to entertain us. In that respect, it works, because it forces the audience to question whether we enable Powers' behavior by being entertained, even if his brother's 11th hour decision to take him to the used car lot seems like it comes out of nowhere.

Hill, without the contributions of Ben Best and Danny McBride, is making the same argument here, I think. "Admit it," he's sneering, "you enable the Ronnie Barnhardts of the world because they'll shoot the flasher point blank with a 9mm and you'll all clap because he got the job done." Well, Hill, get off your high horse- this is a motherfucking MALL COP, for crying out loud. Set your sights a little higher, you class-bully douchebag.

As The Screen Grab also pointed out, isn't it interesting that there's not a single black character in the film, and when Ronnie encounters some drug-dealers, they're hispanics led by a white actor?

This is the blackest, most nihilistic, most hard hearted studio film I've seen since Verhoven's Starship Troopers. And not coincidentally, also the film I've come the closest to walking out on.

I didn't think they could make a more humiliating, off-putting Anna Faris movie than this one, and I saw The House Bunny.

Bill C.

I don't understand why so much attention is being paid to Jody Hill or this movie. It used to be that you had to make a few movies before people would give you this much airtime. Am I missing something in the collective "works" of the McBride/Hill posse? Or are we just so completely starved for new voices that we'll anoint anyone the Next Big Thing (see Joe Shlongberg for this too)? Because it looks to me like we're taking Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow and Ben Stiller's word for it that these guys are fresh comic voices -- but last time I checked Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow and Ben Stiller weren't the people I considered to be arbiters of taste.

Maybe it's just me.

Campaspe

The movie doesn't sound like my cup of tea (she says, glancing at the Marx Brothers DVDs she spent the weekend holed up with). But this review was bloody marvelous.

Nathan

I pulled a double Friday and saw both this film and "Adventureland" a second time. I know "Observe" is supposed to be the flat-out comedy and Mottola's is more of a dramatic comedy, but I thought "Adventureland" was infinitely funnier than Hill's film. And a lot more pleasant.

Steven Santos

Last month: The filmmakers of "Watchmen", with the support of online movie critics, refer to Zack Snyder as the "Stanley Kubrick of Comic Book Movies".

This month: The filmmakers of "Observe & Report", with the support of online movie critics, call it the "Taxi Driver of Mall Cop Movies".

Next month: The filmmakers of "Star Trek", with the support of online movie critics, will claim their film is the "Godfather of Space Movies".

Later this summer, Michael Bay will claim "Transformers 2" is the "Bridge on the River Kwai of Fighting Robot Movies".

John M

Glenn, how'd you snag a still from the film with boom mic peeking in? Nice. And an apt illustration of the slavish care put into its visuals, I'm sure.

Haven't seen OBSERVE AND REPORT, but I did just suffer through all six episodes of EASTBOUND AND DOWN--part of a very passive and self-destructive on-demand addiction--and can only assume the descriptions of the series as a "thing of beauty" are on par with the blog-ironic hyperbole of the TAXI DRIVER comparisons.

I'd add, "Maybe I missed something," but I'm 100% fucking sure I didn't.

Guys, really? The first season of THE OFFICE--the BBC one--was six episodes. Just as a thought experiment, compare those two seasons in your mind--which one holds up? Is one memory, maybe, a bit richer? In addition to making me laugh maybe four times in its 180-minute running time, the narrative of EASTBOUND was unbelievably clunky and thin and predictable. (And it's official: the word "fuck," in and of itself, is no longer funny.) It's basically a lazy, Robert McKee arc laid over an "unpleasant" doofus. This is just slack-ass calculation, badass anti-comedy bona fides--subvert a few things, make your hero a classless mulleted dipshit who does mushrooms, and presto, you're a fucking genius, because OMG, somehow we're still rooting for him!!!

The series makes TALLADEGA NIGHTS look like THE LEOPARD.

More than one narrative thread? Somehow, over six episodes, no. Fleshed-out characters beyond the lead? No. Anything really in the way of fluid--or, god forbid, ambitious--visual design? No.

But BOY IS JODY HILL BALLSY.

God help us.

Dan

First off, come on, guys. A film being "pleasant" or "unpleasant" is Leonard Maltin territory.

Also, read this: http://lonelymachines.org/mall-ninjas/

I read the script, and I know guys like Ronnie Bernhardt, and it makes the script an...interesting experience. The script doesn't make many compromises, and I think most people want the comforting idea that guys like Ronnie Bernhardt are hapless losers, but the truth is, these guys have just enough weapons and disregard for other people that they're genuinely dangerous. Hill doesn't soft-pedal that and say they're all right, so good for him, but I think it left him a hell of problem in terms of execution.

Glenn Kenny

@Dan, I rather meant unpleasant as a form of faint praise—that is, it's merely unpleasant rather than shocking, galvanic, or any of the other things it's going for. Maybe I shoulda been a bit clearer on that.

@ Steven Santos: Very funny. I'm not sure just what it is that's cranking up the utterly inappropriate hyperbole machine these days, but it sure is kind of irritating. I do also wonder if some of the print critics who are rather inanely slathering praise on the film are somehow doing so because they're worried about being "relevant"—keying into something they think these snarky kids with their interpodcasts are really into these days and overrating it in a "hey, can we come to your groovy platter party?" manner. In which case I'd kinda say they miscalculated.

MovieMan0283

"I do also wonder if some of the print critics who are rather inanely slathering praise on the film are somehow doing so because they're worried about being "relevant"—keying into something they think these snarky kids with their interpodcasts are really into these days and overrating it in a "hey, can we come to your groovy platter party?" manner. In which case I'd kinda say they miscalculated."

If we were in a bar, I'd buy you a drink for that one; you hit the nail on the head. Critics are becoming enablers to audience's lower standards, and usually even the good ones won't admit it.

Joe

Glenn-

A couple decades ago, a reputable critic, nationally known, commented in a review about a film's "utterly beautiful poetic violence." (I remember that; I couldn't make up, even if I tried.) I remember my wife commenting, "I wonder if he'd find it beautifully poetic if someone bashed his head with a baseball bat?" It made me think how critics (myself included) get carried away and say patently ridiculous things as they endorse or defend a favored film.

bill

Joe - Was the film in question directed by Peckinpah? Because people have been saying that about his work for years, and, as much as I like Peckinpah, I've often found that the critics who call his violence beautiful or "balletic" or "voluptuous" are really gearing themselves up to expose themselves as hypocrites by slamming the often no-more graphic or immorally-intended violence in some other movie that is less fashionable.

Dan

Glenn, more a personal bugaboo than anything else.

As for shocking, I guess it depends on perspective. Jody Hill's an odd duck, he seems torn between catering to a limited audience by committing fully to his "follow the asshole" tendencies and making pots of money in Hollywood. Somebody like Schwartzbaum, who I sincerely doubt has dealt seriously with anybody below a certain income bracket in a VERY long time, will probably be a lot more jolted than you or I.

Joe

Bill--

You know, I'm fairly certain it was a review of a Peckinpah movie. Or it could have been a Scorsese. But you bring up a good point because they same critic wouldhave responded to the same violence in a different - i.e., negative - way if another, lesser filmmaker's name was on the movie.

For what it's worth, the critic was named David. Maybe you can figure out exactly which David.

Alex

'Last month: The filmmakers of "Watchmen", with the support of online movie critics, refer to Zack Snyder as the "Stanley Kubrick of Comic Book Movies" '

Snyder is to Kubrick as an anthill is to the pyramids, no offense to ants, whom are quite fascinating creatures.

Dan Coyle

I think it's telling that the most positive reviews I've read of the film are from John Nolte and Devin Faraci.

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