...turns out to be one of those pictures the critical reaction to which is more, um, interesting than the thing itself. I found it a pretty unpleasant mess with very few laugh-out-loud moments (the cardinal sin as far as a supposed comedy is concerned, in my book). I also found it to be rather utterly ridiculous. Writer/director Jody Hill's um, vision, might have worked had he framed it as the utter burleqesque most of the sum of its parts suggest it should be. But, besides having a cinematic sense that makes Kevin Smith look like Otto Preminger, Hill's got zero ability to create a consistent tone. One also suspects that his creative process often involves putting the cart before the horse. E.g., if I may be allowed to speculate, "Wouldn't it be cool to have a slo-mo foot chase through the mall scored to the Pixies' 'Where Is My Mind'?", for instance.
From the anachronistically-overcoated flasher on down, the material here begs for some recognition of its utter absurdity, but a lot of folks seem to be taking the picture's portrayal of Mall America at face value. I know everybody's kind of cracked up about how everything's turned to shit these day, but c'mon, people; in the world in which we actually exist, the odds are reasonably good that Seth Rogen's "chief of mall security" Ronnie Barnhardt would have been fired for cause within the first ten minutes of the film.
Some do find the argumentation authentic, however. Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum sees the film as "a crazy mosaic of Americana with tiles scattered and missing," and Time's Richard Corliss calls it "a quick portrait of trailer-park America pursuing its urges by any means necessary." (Never mind that no trailer-park is depicted in the picture; this is code, I guess.) As someone whose brother manages a Dave & Busters, I rather resent the implicit class bias of such observations, but there you have it. But I'm here to tell ya—I spend more time than you think in the malls of heartland America, and it's not that bad out there!
As for the picture's controversial "date rape" scene, which one defends at the peril of being scolded "But it's not informed consent!", well, if one was wondering what could make any given writer at Jezebel drop her insouciance, rev up her outrage meter from -10 to 100 in nothing flat, and come on rather like a potty-mouthed Phyllis Schlafly, well, now you know. Whether that's a useful thing to know, I can't say. This is not to condone date rape jokes, or any kind of rape jokes, by the way; they're not funny. Not in Blazing Saddles, not in Animal House, not in that Woody Allen bit ending "it wasn't a a moving violation," none of it. But the thing is, Observe and Report isn't Blazing Saddles, it isn't Animal House, and Jody Hill isn't Woody Allen. As my esteemed friend Vadim notes in a comment below, "It's not even that good a movie." If it was, there might be something worth talking about. But as it is, this is just another case of the constantly-starved-for-defining-the-zeitgeist-celebration-and-opprobrium-culture-coverage maw gnawing on some chum. When the dust settles, DIsney and Miley Cyrus are gonna stand up holding all the loot, and this thing won't have even begun to build a cult. Next!
UPDATE: Many thanks to the esteemed James Wolcott, who I've admired from a distance for longer than I'd like to admit (I suspect he'd appreciate my reticence in this respect as well), for the linkage.