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Observe and Report: Watch and retort

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Observe and Report, N.C. writer-director Jody Hill's sophomore effort following the no-budget, no-laughs farce The Foot Fist Way, valiantly tries to combine the twisted trappings of a black comedy with the more accepted slapstick shenanigans of a mainstream outing. It's extremely difficult to synchronize these approaches into one fluid viewing experience -- Terry Zwigoff largely pulled it off with Bad Santa, but Hill never locates the proper balance that would make this more than just a hit-and-miss curio.

Seth Rogen, no stranger to controversial comedies, stars as Paul Blart -- excuse me, Ronnie Barnhardt, a schlub who takes great pride in his work as the head of security at a popular mall. Unlike the congenial Blart, however, Ronnie is a disturbed individual, required to remain on his medication lest his destructive tendencies and delusions of grandeur take over. But Ronnie is largely oblivious to his own inner demons -- he's too busy lusting after a makeup counter tart (Anna Faris), cluelessly overlooking a sweet fast-food employee (Collette Wolfe), attempting to apprehend a flasher who's been terrorizing the mall, and engaging in a war of words with a real detective (Ray Liotta).

Much of Observe and Report is aimless and lackadaisical -- a whole burglary subplot could easily have been dropped without affecting the overall product -- yet the script's biggest problem rests with its decidedly non-PC content. There's nothing wrong with ruffling a few feathers here and there -- a little vulgarity is good for the soul, as Mel Brooks used to prove on a regular basis -- but the material needs to be funny as well as potentially shocking, and almost none of the film's targets -- alcoholism, racial profiling, date rape, etc. -- are skewered in a fashion that elicits much in the way of laughs. The exception is the rampant male nudity seen during the bloody climax; I won't ruin it here, but let's just say this might mark the only time that a movie manages to go limp and out with a bang at the same time.

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